I have lymphedema in my left leg. Mine is congenital and had a late onset in my 20's, which is very rare. Most people get lymphedema because they've experienced some sort of trauma. It is most common with breast cancer patients, because there is a huge lymphatic drain under your arm pit. When patients undergo a mastectomy they remove some of the lymph nodes and this causes swelling. I knew that it was going to be a problem during pregnancy, and in reality my case is minor. If you Google lymphedema you can see some very severe cases.
I went to physical therapy 5 times total. At the sessions the occupational and physical therapists perform a lymphatic massage. It's a very light massage, and I do usually notice a change. I've been doing this to myself once or twice a day. I think it helps.
One day the therapist decided to wrap me and then I went to work. My foot ached the entire day. I think part of the problem is that I don't have any big enough shoes that will fit with the thick bandaging. When I got home and took the bandaging off, this is what I found:
Does that look normal to you? I was pretty upset. I think that throughout the day the bandaging started loosening and there was some room for the fluid to collect in the ankle. I've decided to wrap it at night and then wear compression stocking during the day. This plan has been working pretty well.
I'm just hoping and praying that after the pregnancy things go back to being much more manageable. Currently I'm able to wear 2 pairs of closed toed shoes. I need to wear jeans or pants at all times because I'm wearing old lady stockings. I love shoes, and would hate to be stuck to tennis shoes for the rest of my life. With summer coming, I'll suffocate in jeans. This is one of the reasons that I was very concerned about having a c-section. There is another lymphatic drain at the hip, and surgery could affect the fluid from draining permanently.
There is no cure for lymphedema just on going treatment. Staying a healthy weight, being active, and maintaining a healthy diet are all ways to manage.