Air travel

I have primary lymphoedema in my lower leg and foot. Please can anyone give me some facts and figures on the long term effects of flying. I am prepared for some short term fluctuations in swelling caused by the flight but i cant seem to find any information as to the long term implications. Will flying permanently increase the swelling and size of my limb or will my limb return to pre- flight size?

I would love to go to New York for christmas but having not yet flown with my fairly recently diagnosed condition, I am very anxious and worried that I may have a larger limb permanently if I fly.

Thank you for any advice.

10 Replies

  • Thank you.

    I am 51, my leg is not much larger than the unaffected left leg, but very afraid that a plane journey will cause an adverse effect on my swollen leg.

  • Newbat, I suggest you contact the Lymphoedema Support Network. They have a website and telephone help line & have information on travel. Everyone is affected differently by their lymphoedema but mine has never stopped me doing long haul flights, including three times to Australia. I have primary in both legs and feet (below knee). By the end of the flight my legs/feet are more uncomfortable and swollen but all returns to my normal in a day or do - usually following a good night's sleep. I have just booked to go to Florida in January and paid an extra £50 for an emergency exit seat. I like the extra leg room and the ability to move around more easily. Of course the airline won't let you have an emergency exit if you have limited mobility, which I don't.

  • Hi my husband has primary lymphoedema of his left foot and lower leg and had no problems flying to New York for our honeymoon. He experienced some temporary increase in swelling but no more than would be expected for an unaffected limb. It quickly returned to its pre flight size with no long term effect. So enjoy your trip and don't worry x Jane

  • Thank you all for your comforting replies. X

  • Wear your compression garment from first thing in the morning here, until you go to bed at your destination. There may be an increase in the volume, but it should go down after a few hours. (I have two 'air crew' clients with primary lymphoedema - they don't go anywhere without their garments!)

  • Hey Nelbat!

    I have primary lymphoedema in both of my legs - I live in Australia and have travelled quite a lot to Europe and the UK. I've noticed a bit of extra swelling but it tends to go down pretty quickly. Just make sure you wear your compressions garments on the flight they really are a life saver! I flew to Italy quite a few years ago pre-diagnosis so had no compressions and it was quite difficult but all the flights since with compressions have been fine. Don't let it hold you back! :)


  • Hi, I too have primary in both legs, and journey's either by land or air and an issue - I panic very easily. However having sais that if you wear your compression garments and keep you legs moving you should be okay. I would advise paying the extra for the extra leg room.

  • Thank you that's reassuring.

  • I would agree with what was said. I would advise you to make sure to bring lots of water with you on the plane as for some reasons, you can get very dehydrated. In the past, I forgot and I was feeling very bad. Migraines and sickness which i am not subject to.

  • I've had primary lymphedema for 54 years and it covers my complete body. I just returned from Florida, US, to Alberta in Canada. 8-10 hours. Sitting in one spot for several hours with your legs down will cause swelling period, even in your own living room if you could stay put for the many hours you spend in the aircraft. I came home Tuesday and this is Sunday; the swelling is almost gone. It is a good idea for you to wear the compression stockings as suggested - if it works for you. Compression stockings cause me shortness of breath as with compression stockings, the lymph is pushed up into the abdoman and then further up to the heart. It may not do that do you. I just have to bear it out and it will recover itself when I get home. There are no long term problems I know about just short term ones. Hope you manage well on your flight. Helen

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