Wendy Williams Shared a Lymphedema Flare: What To Do if You Have One

In a since-deleted Instagram post, Williams shared a photo of her swollen feet caused by lymphedema.

In 2021, Wendy Williams took to Instagram to share a since-deleted photo of her swollen feet caused by lymphedema. Williams could be seen sitting in what looks like a healthcare provider's office. Her swollen feet and ankles were near the camera, and she was wearing a sparkly green dress.

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

Lymphedema is a condition that causes swelling. According to the National Library of Medicine, swelling happens when lymph accumulates in your tissues. Lymph is a fluid containing white blood cells, which help protect your body against illness.

Williams shared her diagnosis in 2019 on "The Wendy Williams Show" after paparazzi photos surfaced showing her swollen ankles. 

"Lymphedema, by the way, I've been diagnosed," explained Williams. "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 what you need to know about flares of swelling—whether it happens to your arms, legs, or feet—caused by lymphedema and how to treat the condition. 

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What Is Lymphedema—And What Are the Signs?

Lymphedema happens when the body cannot adequately drain lymph, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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

When the drainage doesn't happen, swelling occurs, most commonly in the arms or legs. Sometimes, swelling develops quickly, or it may develop slowly over several months, according to the CDC.

Per a study published in 2018 in Seminars in Plastic Surgery, there are two types of lymphedema, which include:

  • Primary lymphedema: This type is idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. 
  • Secondary lymphedema: Swelling that occurs due to an injury that causes damage or blockage in the lymphatic system. Surgery, cancer, or infection may cause injuries.

Additionally, people with obesity and arthritis are at high risk for lymphedema, along with those who are older. 

In addition to swelling, according to the NCI, 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 daily. 

"It's the best party entertainer ever," said Williams. "Everybody [that] comes over wants to do it."

Compression is just one way to help relieve a lymphedema flare. Per the NCI, options like exercise, different therapies (like physical therapy and laser therapy), and bandages can help treat lymphedema. 

Additionally, the National Library of Medicine, for arms specifically, lying down and resting the affected arm can relieve swelling.

Finally, preventative measures for lymphedema, per the NCI, include:

  • Notifying your healthcare provider about any signs of the condition
  • Avoiding infection by keeping skin and nails clean
  • Not blocking fluid flow throughout the body or allowing blood to pool in arms or legs that have been affected

When To Seek Medical Attention for Lymphedema

Per the National Library of Medicine, consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible if you experience symptoms like:

  • 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
  • Swelling that lasts more than one to two weeks
  • Signs of infection 

Your healthcare provider can help determine the best treatment options for your case. They can also rule out any additional conditions you may be experiencing due to lymphedema symptoms.

A Quick Review

Williams shared her swollen feet in a since-deleted Instagram post, highlighting the hallmark symptom caused by lymphedema. 

Lymphedema occurs when lymph builds up in your tissues. In addition to the swelling, you may experience full, heavy limbs that are difficult to move.

A healthcare provider can help treat your condition if you have a lymphedema flare. Exercising or working with a physical therapist are examples of managing the condition. 

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