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Altitude - at what elevation could it become a problem?

rrs Member Posts: 16
edited June 2019 in Lymphedema

I moved from 1,000 ft to 5,000 ft elevation one year after my treatment. Within a year, a had cording and lymphedema which I attributed to over use in painting and exercise (pilates, weights, etc.). After therapy and self care, it improved and remained under control for several years.

We moved, again, to 200 ft for 3 years with no change. Moved again to 900 ft for 4 years and I was able to go without compression. Recently we moved to 7,000 ft and after 3 months, my arm is swelling and aching.

So, I'm wondering, at what elevation does lymphedema become a problem? It is so complicated because I don't really know what caused the initial onset - injury, altitude or both.

Any thoughts?


  • ksusan
    ksusan Member Posts: 461

    All I can tell you is that my PT says that she sees far less LE at this low-elevation community than she did in Denver. There may of course be confounds (such as shoveling snow, for example).

  • hugz4u
    hugz4u Member Posts: 1,818

    Great question...well I live a couple hundred feet above sea level and when I travelled to Yellowstone park I noticed that my arm was ok at 4-5000 going up to7000 and above it was sore. I was invited to go on this trip again and declined due to soreness. Each person is different as you can tell by people's experiences,there are so many variables such as body size, stage of LE, that makes us each so unique. No one size fits all.

    That said being close to sea level would make more sense as altitude puts pressure on even healthy bodies. I hear a water bottle expands on a flight and I would think our bodies are similar in altitude. I haven't tried flying yet.

    I try to avoid high height trips as it makes my day easier. One girl here wears her night compression garment when going thru the mountains. I notice soon as I come out of them my arm stops acting up with in a half hour,it goes back to the usual.

    I wear compression daily sleeve and hand compression. Unless you have sub clinical or stage 0 le it is not reversible. So you would still have le even if you feel you don't need a sleeve. My ex boss was so proud that she didn't wear a sleeve/glove like me but then added "yah my arm isn't getting too woody feeling, it's just a bit hard" this means she already has profound damage to her tissues even though she had a small arm just like mine.

    Never wear just a sleeve as this pushes stagnant le fluid into hand making HUGE problems down the road.

    If your swollen go back to therapy asap to get good control. Ask how to manage living in the mountains. Perhaps wearing a nightgarment made especially for our bodies at rest. Never go to bed with daygarment it's a whole different principal than nighttime approach. You should wake up feeling better with nightgarment allowing you to face the day in the mountains wearing day compression. Or maybe you only need day garments your therapist will tell you. It quite possible she will recommend you wearing day compression. Smart if you do as you already have swelling.

    See to find a qu therapist near you. Our girls here developed this excellent resource site

    You have come to the best place on the web for help. Don't be discouraged we are here to get you over the bumps. Ask questions. Weigh out answers.

    Starting a new exercise program then Exercise should be started with one pound weights or less if you are not use to it. After one year I am up to seven pounds but I am a slow progresser. This gradual lifting doesn't put a a strain on our lymphatic challenged limbs. I can lift 15 lb grocerys but am vary careful not to be repetious with that weight as it can set off a swell

    Congratulations to being cancer free since 2001!

  • rrs
    rrs Member Posts: 16

    Hugs, Thank you for your concern and advice.

    I have been treating my LE for years and am looking for a therapist asap. When my LE is acting up, I sleep in a Jovi sleeve and use a Flexitouch machine. I wear compression sleeve and glove when I exercise. When I have swelling, I wear a sleeve during the day but don't always wear a glove because my hand is wrinkled as can be - doesn't seem to have much LE there.

    Because of an elbow problem (ulnar nerve entrapment), wearing compression seems to cause soreness which probably increases swelling. I'm afraid I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. I'm going to be so disappointed if we need to move to lower altitude.

  • binney4
    binney4 Member Posts: 1,466

    rrs, if you regain control of the LE your lymph system should be able to adjust to that altitude. It's the changing of altitude that challenges the lymph system. So you might want to look at other possible causes for your current flare. New activities? Different diet (more salt?) Changes in barometric pressure?

    Hoping you're soon back in control. Do keep us posted! (And hey, you and I go way back--I remember you used to have a beautiful avatar that always made me smile. Sounds like you've been on the move a lot. NM is beautiful-enjoy!)

    Gentle hugs,

  • rrs
    rrs Member Posts: 16

    Thanks Binney, but I'm not following.... I've been here about 3 months. So, are you saying the change in the altitude would have caused swelling right away and that my current swelling is due to something else?

    Yes, I don't know why I removed my avatar - I'll see if I can find again.

  • buttonsmachine
    buttonsmachine Member Posts: 339

    Bumping this thread.

    At what altitude do we need to take additional precautions, and what would those be?

    Here is my dilemma - I have mild LE. I was invited to spend 4 days at 6500 ft. elevation. I usually have good control wearing compression all my waking hours, and I sleep without compression. I'm worried about sleeping without compression at 6500ft. I don't have a night sleeve, currently. I realistically will not be able to get one before the trip. Any thoughts?

  • amygil81
    amygil81 Member Posts: 42

    Buttons, it's very hard to know for sure that a particular altitude is safe. I live at sea level and always take extra precautions when I go to the mountains. It's hard to tell if it works or not. I might have gotten that flare anyway. If you can't get a night garment in time, would bandaging work at all?