Proper, individualized course of action
Lymphedema occurs when the lymph system is damaged or blocked. Fluid builds up in soft body tissues and causes swelling.
Lymphedema usually occurs in an arm or a leg, but other parts of the body can also be affected. Lymphedema causes tissues to become swollen and painful, and increases the risk for infection.
Primary lymphedema is caused by abnormal lymph system development. With primary lymphedema, symptoms may occur at birth or later in life.
Secondary lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymph system. The lymph system may be damaged or blocked by infection, injury, cancer, removal of lymph nodes, radiation to the affected area, or scar tissue. In secondary lymphedema, symptomsmay occur soon after a medical procedure, or many years later.
While damage to the lymph system cannot be repaired, treatment can help decrease pain, improve mobility, and allow you to continue your daily activities.
Lymphedema therapy begins with an evaluation to determine the proper, individualized course of action. Your lymphedema treatment may include:
- Manual lymph drainage: A gentle massage stimulates the lymphatic system to decrease swelling.
- Compression bandages: Low-stretch bandages create pressure that prevents fluid from returning to the affected limb. Patients and/or caregivers are taught to apply these bandages. They also learn exercises to help remove fluid while wearing the compression bandages.
- Sequential pumping:This treatment is used occasionally to assist in lymph drainage in combination with manual lymph drainage and compression bandaging.
- Patient and family education:We’ll advise you on skin care, self-massage, exercise, and precautions to limitadditional complications.
- Exercise:A personalized exercise program can improve range of motion, strength, and lymph drainage.
Lymphedema symptoms include swelling in your arms or legs. Consult a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Swelling in your arm or leg
- Your arm or leg feels full or heavy
- Your skin feels tight
- You have trouble moving a joint in your arm or leg
- Your skin thickens
- You experience a feeling of tightness when wearing clothes, shoes, watches, etc.
- You feel burning or itching in your legs or toes
These problems may be caused by a variety of conditions. Talk to your doctor early, before the problem becomes severe.
To determine the proper individualized course of treatment, we conduct a thorough evaluation which includes the following:
- Patient medical history
- Scar assessment
- Strength testing
- Range of motion testing
- Pain level assessment
- Sensation assessment in affected area
- Circumferential measurement of affected area
- Skin integrity assessment (color, texture, firmness, temperature and moisture)
- Functional mobility assessment (ability to walk, stand up, etc.)
- Assessment of daily activities (ability to self-care, home management, etc.)
Tell your doctor right away if you notice symptoms of lymphedema. We can teach you how to care for lymphedema at home and prevent the condition from getting worse.