Lymphedema is a chronic swelling of an extremity or part of the body caused by a deficiency in the flow of lymph fluid from the area due to:
Lymphedema can develop at any time – months or even years – after surgery, injury and/or radiation. Often it is triggered by a new injury or trauma to the extremity. Approximately 32 percent of patients who have had lymph nodes removed and radiation will develop Lymphedema.
Injury, infections, rashes and inflamed muscles all cause the body to send extra healing fluid to the area. The extra fluid overloads the system, causing a slowing in the movement of lymph fluid. As the lymph fluid and tissue waste products collect, the extremity swells and hardens. Bacteria in the fluids can multiply and infection can spread rapidly.
Avoid even minor rashes, burns or wounds because the body will respond by sending extra fluid to destroy bacteria, heal tissue, etc. causing swelling to increase. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop an infection in the involved extremity/area. Avoid heavy pressure on the "net like" lymphatic pathways that drain tissue fluid. Pressure will collapse lymphatics and cause fluid backup.
Other tips include:
Although there is no cure for lymphedema, the condition can be significantly reduced and controlled with therapy and self-management.
Early intervention is the most effective. Persons with mild to severe lymphedema need formal treatment provided by an occupational or physical therapist certified in lymphedema treatment.
At Fisher-Titus Medical Center's Rehabilitation Center, a Certified Lymphedema Therapist will direct your care and will be your primary therapist during treatment.
A physician referral is required to begin treatment.*
*Medicare generally covers 80 percent of your therapy and it also is covered by most private insurance. Check with your insurance carrier for specific plan coverage.