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Apr 17, 2006 01:27PM
It's kind of a confusing question, I think. Burns, what you're describing sounds like you're staying on top of treating your LE, so it's not progressing, but it's your treatment of it that's keeping it from getting worse -- that is, moving on to Stage 2 and Stage 3. Alexa, I think what you're describing is LE that's been mostly untreated, and you're asking if it's going to get worse, right? But I think that depends on what you mean by "progressing." It seems like what you're saying is that it doesn't seem to have grown much bigger, and that's certainly possible with LE. But even if the swelling remains stable, if it's untreated it will progress through the LE stages. Which means that the tissue that's swollen will become fibrotic, hard, and eventually impossible to reduce. If the swelling is not enough to bother you aesthetically and if it's not painful, then it can be hard to see what point there might be to reducing it and controlling it.
The problem is, untreated post-bc LE can lead to potentially very serious (systemic) infection, which may require hospitalization and high doses of antibiotics (and, to be real frank, it's rarely but potentially fatal). Any break in the skin is even more dangerous with uncontrolled LE than with LE that's kept in control by massage and compression, because fibrotic tissue further blocks healing and promotes complications. But also, without treatment and control, our LE can even lead to spontaneous infection (without any breaks in the skin), which to me is especially creepy and crummy! Studies by Foeldi (a LE research leader) show that we post-bc ladies who do the treatment routine do not suffer from spontaneous infection. Another possibility is lymph leakage, which is a caustic seeping of lymph fluid directly through the pores, which happens only in untreated LE. And untreated LE may eventually also lead to reduced arm strength and range of motion.
Okay, having pronounced all that doom, I'll admit that I know women who have done nothing to control their post-bc LE and so far have had no problem more serious than having to find a seamstress to adjust the cuffs of a dress that was too tight on the affected arm. So in that sense, at least, their LE has not "progressed." It's a matter of each of us educating ourselves (since our health-care providers are not too likely to educate us) and then making our own decisions about what we're willing to do or not do, risk or not risk, put up with or not put up with.
Unfortunately, I don't have much choice with mine. My LE is "mild" in that I caught it early, it has not progressed to a further stage, and my arms and chest are very close to "normal" (pre-LE) size. But it's considered "sensitive" in that I can't go without compression for very long before it begins to swell, and certain activities make it swell despite all my efforts to control it. (On the other hand, it's also quick to respond to massage and/or compression and fairly easy to get back into shape when I overdo it -- easy, but frustrating!!!)
Burns, you're right about the exercise -- it is a help to moving lymph fluid, but what you're describing is exercise within the bounds of good control. There are already some studies that show exercise and movement (with proper care) helps to both prevent and control LE, and there are more studies currently in progress -- one even looking at the positive effects of bench pressing!
Does any of that help, or am I just muddying the waters here?!