What is Lymphedema
Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluids and protein in the tissue that develops as a result of a malfunction of the lymphatic system. Approximately 2.5 million people in the United States develop lymphedema with swelling in the legs, arms, face, or trunk. Lymphedema primarily causes swelling, a feeling of heaviness in the extremity, slight discomfort, cosmetic deformity, and an increased risk for infections. If not treated, lymphedema can lead to a hardening of the soft tissue called fibrosis. This fibrosis reduces the level of oxygen flow and can interfere with tissue healing
How is Lymphedema treated?
The most widely accepted method of treatment for lymphedema is Complete Decongestive Therapy.
Complete Decongestive Therapy
This is a combination treatment that includes manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging, meticulous skin and nail care, and decongestive exercises. Patients initially receive daily treatments.
Manual Lymph Draining
This is a gentle massage of the healthy lymph nodes, to the lymph channels, and to the affected area. It promotes drainage of lymph fluid out of the swollen areas of the body
After the manual lymph drainage treatment is completed, the affected limb is bandaged in order to promote continued benefit of the massage and to work towards the reduction of swelling. This is worn overnight and reapplied daily. Short stretch bandages are used until the swelling is reduced. Then the patient is fitted with a compression garment such as a sleeve, glove, or stocking.
Meticulous Skin and Nail Care
Hygiene and topical skin care are done to reduce bacterial and fungal infections.
A pH5 lotion is applied and educational material on skin and nail care is provided.
Prescribed exercises are given to the patient to be done while wearing compression bandages or garments. The benefits of the specific exercises are to activate the muscle-joint pump and to activate lymph flow. This helps to further reduce swelling.