Wendy Williams Shared a Lymphedema Flare in Her Feet: What To Do If You Have One

There are a few ways to relieve symptoms of the condition.

In 2021, Wendy Williams posted a photo of her swollen feet from lymphedema on Instagram. Williams could be seen sitting in what looks like a medical office. Her swollen feet and ankles were the near the camera, and she was wearing a sparkly green dress.

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"My Dr. Laure is the French lady who's helping me live with lymphedema," Williams wrote in the caption. "She scrubs & understands my disease is not curable only manageable. Oh yes I'm wearing a sequin dress why not?!"

Williams has been open in the past about having the condition, which causes either one or both legs to swell. Williams shared her diagnosis in 2019 on The Wendy Williams Show after paparazzi photos surfaced that showed her swollen ankles. "Lymphedema, by the way, I've been diagnosed," she said at the time as an explanation for why her ankles were swollen. "It's not going to kill me, but I do have a machine—and how dare you talk about the swelling of it all."

Here's more about the condition, what to do if flares happen, and how to prevent them.

What Is Lymphedema—And What Are the Signs?

Lymphedema is a condition that happens when the body is unable to properly drain lymph fluid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Along with lymph fluid, lymph vessels, tissues, and organs make up the lymph system, per the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In particular, lymph fluid carries fluid and cells (T and B lymphocytes, which are white blood cells) in your body that help fight infections.

The inability for lymph fluid drainage to occur may be due to damage or blockage in the lymph system. When the drainage doesn't happen, swelling is the result—usually occurring in an arm or leg. Sometimes this swelling develops quickly, or it may develop slowly over several months, the CDC says.

Lymphedema can happen on its own (called primary lymphedema) or as a result of another factor (secondary lymphedema). Additionally, people with obesity and arthritis are at a higher risk for lymphedema, along with those who are older. Secondary lymphedema can be caused by surgery, cancer or radiation treatment for cancer, and infection.

Aside from swelling of the arms or legs (including fingers or toes, respectively), the NCI says that some of the following symptoms might indicate lymphedema:

  • Fullness or heaviness in arms or legs
  • Tight-feeling or thickening skin
  • Trouble moving arm or leg joints
  • Itchiness or burning in legs

How To Manage Lymphedema Flares

Williams said in 2019 that she has her condition "under control," noting that she used a machine for pneumatic compression for 45 minutes a day. "It's the best party entertainer ever," Williams joked at the time. "Everybody [that] comes over wants to do it."

However, compression is just one way to help relieve a lymphedema flare. The NCI indicates that options like exercise, different types of therapies (e.g., physical therapy, laser therapy),and bandages can play a role in treating lymphedema. Additionally, MedlinePlus says that, for arms specifically, lying down and resting the affected arm can help relieve swelling.

Finally, preventative measures for lymphedema, per the NCI, include actions such as notifying your healthcare provider about any signs of the condition, avoiding infection by keeping skin and nails clean, and not blocking fluid flow throughout the body or allowing blood to pool in arms or legs that have been affected. Further, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends being cautious when engaging in everyday activities, staying fit, wearing clothing that won't aggravate your symptoms, and being active when it comes to your medical care, like having injections or fluids drawn from unaffected limbs.

When To Seek Medical Attention for Lymphedema

MedlinePlus notes that you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Feelings of weakness or tightness in your arms or legs
  • Pains, aches, or heaviness in your arms or legs
  • New rashes
  • Skin breaks that don't heal
  • Long-term swelling (more than one to two weeks)
  • Signs of infection (e.g., a fever higher than 100.5 degrees)

They will be able to determine what treatment options will be best for your case and rule out any additional conditions that you could be experiencing due to the symptoms of lymphedema.

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