Lymphedema is a swelling of a body part, most often an extremity, caused by an abnormal accumulation of lymph (interstitial) fluid. Lymphedema may be caused by an anomaly present at birth, but is more commonly due to surgery, trauma, or illnesses such as cancer.
While treatment can vastly improve symptoms, there is no permanent cure for this disease.
A trained therapist utilizes various techniques such as Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), compression bandaging, and remedial exercises to treat lymphedema.
The following is a list of common causes of lymphedema.
Surgery e.g.: breast cancer, malignant melanoma, prostate and bladder cancer, lymphoma, hysterectomy for cancer, radical groin dissection.
While treatment can vastly improve lymphedema, there is no permanent cure for this disease.
How Does One Prevent Lymphedema?
Avoid temperature extremes (no hot tubs, no sunburns)
Avoid infections and injury
Diet-excellent overall nutrition
Avoid alcohol and nicotine as much as possible
Meticulous cleanliness including skin and nail care
Sleep with limb elevated or wrapped
Exercise - walking or swimming
Use hypoallergenic products
Seek treatment for slight changes in lymphedema
Treat infections vigorously
Avoid high-heeled shoes
Travel with limb elevated or wrapped
How is Lymphedema Treated?
Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a gentle manual treatment, which improves the activity of the lymph system. MLD reroutes lymph flow around blocked areas into more centrally located, healthy lymph vessels which drain into the venous system.
Compression Bandaging is the application to minimally elastic cotton bandages to increase the tissue pressure in the swollen extremity. Bandaging improves the efficiency of muscle and joint pumps. Bandaging prevents the reaccumulation of evacuated lymph fluid. Bandaging helps break up accumulated scar and connective tissue.
Remedial Exercises are preformed with bandages or the support garment in place. These exercises are designed to improve lymph circulation through the muscle joint pump.
Meticulous Skin and Nail Care eliminates bacterial and fungal growth and reduces the chance of infection.
Benefits of Lymphedema Treatment
Decrease risk/incidence of infection
Prevent progression of disease
Prevent connective and scar tissue formation in affected areas
Improve extremity function for increased ease with activities of daily living, work and leisure