“You're naked, you're vulnerable”: Sexual well-being and body image of women with lower limb lymphedema

Caleb J. Winch, Kerry A. Sherman*, Katriona M. Smith, Louise A. Koelmeyer, Helen Mackie, John Boyages

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Lower-limb lymphedema is an incurable illness manifesting as visible swelling enlarging the leg(s) and/or feet, buttocks, and genitals. This study used semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis to explore sexual well-being among women with primary (congenital) lymphedema (n = 11) or secondary lymphedema associated with gynecological cancer (n = 8). Five themes (subthemes) summarized women's responses, with Attractiveness and Confidence (Publicly Unattractive, Privately Unconfident, Lymphedema or Aging?) describing women's central concern. These body image-related concerns accounted for sexual well-being in association with Partner Support (Availability of Support, Languages of Support, Fears About Support) and the degree of Functional Interruptions (Lymphedema in Context, Enduring Impacts, Overcoming Interruptions). Successful Lymphedema Coping (Control, Acceptance) and self-perceived ability to fulfill a valued Sexual Role also affected sexual well-being. Few differences between women with primary versus secondary lymphedema were evident. Lymphedema clinicians should screen for sexual concerns and have referral options available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-134
Number of pages12
JournalBody Image
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


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