Lymphedema and air travel : I have primary lymphedema in... - LSN

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Lymphedema and air travel


I have primary lymphedema in my right leg(30 years old). What are the risks when flying airplane and what should I do to prevent all of that?

7 Replies

My lymphodema is not primary, but I have lived with it since a teenager and now a fit 72, whose early morning workout is putting on her compression garments. I have flown regularly all my life and many long haul flights as I spent 10 years living in South Africa and we also have been on holidays in many different countries. It never had any negative effects to my leg, which is the best it has ever been given the improvements in compression garments and more importanly, access on the NHS.

Wear your garments from the morning of departure until a few hours after arrival at the destination (especially long haul flight). Get a bulk head seat on the right side of the aircraft, so you can rest your foot on the ledge. Drink plenty of water and get up for frequent walks to the toilet. If you are able to choose your seat, and it’s long haul, opt for a ‘two seat’ space - usually near the service space. Holiday or business? Whichever - enjoy it!!!

I have primary lymphodema and have lived with its effects since the age of 16/17. (I am now 35.) It mainly affects my left leg but it is also present in my right, although nowhere near as severely. I wear knee high compression on that leg and full length on the one which is worse. I have never had an issue with air travel. In actual fact, I have found after some long haul flights that my bad leg actually looks better than it does after a day sat at my desk! (Possibly something to do with the changes in air pressure?!)

As Lynora has said, I would recommend getting an extra leg room seat or the ones which enable you to raise your feet slightly as this will improve your comfort. However, I always fly in a bog standard seat and, as long as you're getting up every so often to stretch out, I find that perfectly acceptable. The only gripe I have is that my full length compression does cut in a little at the back of my knee after hours of sitting but that is true of any location, not just on a plane. Being on a plane just makes stretching your legs out a little more difficult. I make sure I move my legs around as much as possible whilst in the air (rotating ankles, wiggling toes, rolling feet back and forth from the heel to the toe, etc) just to keep everything moving.

As the previous three responder's have said air travel needn't be a problem for your leg, wear compression and take regular little walks on the plane. I also find a little gentle exercise e g. a few miles walk, at the destination helps me adjust my body clock and sleep better, provided of course it's not the middle of the night. It's also VERY important to make sure you have good health insurance for your destination country, even if it's in the EU and if you are prone to cellulitis try and take some antibiotics with you.

i flew to South Africa last year...18 hour trip all told...had no problem with my legs...Lymphedema in both legs-i didn't even get up and walk around...I managed all the walking too and fro in the airports...had my stockings on and didn't suffer a single adverse reaction..maybe I was just lucky :)

Campisi surgery real treatment

In my early days of having secondary Lymohoedema I was frightened to fly especially long haul because of what I’d been told and I thought it would cause huge problems . I’ve had Lymohoedema now for 25 years and now have osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis Eventually I decided to risk it and took a flight to India and everything was fine . I’ve travelled a lot ever since . One of my main problems with the Lymohoedema is my inability to stand for long periods of time and to walk long distances so I actually have assistance at the airport and I take along a manual folding wheelchair which I use mainly to walk with but it also gives me a seat if I get tired . I walk with it to the plane and then they put it in the hold . On the planes there are limited places that you can sit in if you have assistance or you have mobility issues . Some planes use the first few rows and sometimes these have extra leg room but not all . You can’t purchase normal extra space seats near exits as these have to be used by fully fit individuals. On one journey recently I was told that I had to have a window seat because having an aisle seat would restrict others from getting out quickly !! . I’ve travelled both with my garment on and without it , although I know that you are expected to use them at all times . When I’m travelling from hot countries my legs are extra swollen to start with from the heat and so my ready made garments that were specifically measured to fit my leg when it was a more normal size becomes very uncomfortable . It’s far too tight and can actually be incredibly painful . It constricts around the ankles and the backs of the knees in particular which increases the swelling and I feel its often doing more harm than good . Sometimes I take an old pair that’s got more give in them , just for temporary use on the planes but lots of other times I’ve travelled without them because to get honest I find that the most comfortable . Yes my legs swell with the pressure and being seated just like most people’s do but I’ve monitored what’s happened on many journeys and I feel that they actually swell less if they are not restricted . Obviously this isn’t the medical advice that’s given out and I wouldn’t recommend it as the way to go but I think patients do have an additional advantage to medical staff in that they have the practical experience of using these garments on a daily basis which can’t be underestimated and they know how their bodies feel and react . If you have no symptoms wearing your garments and it’s comfortable then this obviously is the best way to travel but I think we also have to do what we feel is right for ourselves . I make sure that I excercise my ankles and legs whilst I’m sitting , I get up and walk as often as I can and I drink lots of water and keep off alcohol . Then when I get home I’m totally back into my normal routine of wearing my garments on a daily basis and the swelling responds accordingly but it’s never stopped me flying .

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