A Therapy Guide to Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a condition where an abnormal collection of protein-rich lymph fluid affects one or many parts of the body and causes swelling. In most cases, the extremities are affected – however, the face, neck, abdomen or genitals could also be affected. This swelling occurs due to damaged or deformed lymphatic vessels or nodes.  Individuals can experience discomfort and difficulty with mobility as a result of lymphedema.

Your lymphatic system is the body’s “plumbing system”, responsible for removing waste material from the body. It is part of the immune system which helps fight disease and infections. The lymphatic system is found throughout all body areas with blood supply and pumps toward the cardiovascular system.

There are two types of lymphedema; primary – caused by congenital/hereditary conditions, and secondary – (most common) caused by cancer/radiation, trauma, surgery, infection, or filariasis (usually found in subtropical areas of the world).

Unfortunately, there is no cure for lymphedema and if it is left untreated, there is a high risk for infection. In even worse cases, lymphangiosarcoma may arise which is a malignant tumor that grows in the skin.

The most effective treatment is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which is considered the gold standard of care and is done by a therapist who has received specialty training. This consists of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), compression bandaging and garments, physical activity and exercise, and self-care.

A certified lymphedema therapist (CLT) can help you manage your lymphedema and improve your quality of life with the appropriate treatment.

If you have questions or would like to make an outpatient appointment with our certified lymphedema therapist, please call 724-452-3492.