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Weight gain, swelling could be more serious disease

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center is raising awareness of the disease called Lymphedema, which affects 140 million people.

Lymphedema is essentially fluid retention and tissue swelling, it should not be confused with edema.

Many people who get diagnosed with lymphedema say they thought they were just gaining weight.

There’s no cure, but if the disease is not managed it can lead to infection and severely limit mobility.

“I have lymphedema in my hips, legs, feet and abdomen,” said Michelle Rich who was diagnosed in 2010 after having surgery to remove her lymph nodes from cancer.

She survived cancer, but now battles a new disease.

“The most frustrating thing is that doctors didn’t inform me I could get lymphedema. I didn’t even know what lymphedema was back then,” said Rich.

Certified lymphedema therapist Kade Scott says the symptoms are often overlooked.

“Early stages people might have complaints of their ring is now tight where it wasn’t before, their bracelet is tight, their socks start leaving rings,” said Scott.

There is no cure for lymphedema and Scott said the disease severely impacts quality of life.

“It takes up a hundred percent dedication,” said Rich.

Rich manages her own care at home. It includes wearing wraps and a compression garment to keep the swelling down and regular exercise.

She said this will be the way of life for her, but her mission now is to educate others about the disease.

Rich’s lymphedema got so bad she was bound to a wheelchair and got up to 456 pounds.

The disease is more common in overweight people, but anyone can get it.

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center is having an open meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. at the EIRMC Outpatient Physical Therapy Gym.

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