What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the chronic swelling of an area of the body (usually a limb or limbs) due to the accumulation of lymph fluid.
Why does it occur?
Lymphedema occurs as a result of damage to, or malformation of, lymph vessels or nodes. It can occur following:
- Surgery or radiation during the treatment of certain cancers
- Trauma (e.g. severe burns or crush injuries)
- Inherited condition resulting in malformation or absence of lymph vessels or nodes
Lymphedema may develop immediately following surgery or injury or it may occur years later. Symptoms usually appear in the limb nearest the site of surgery, radiation, or injury. Warning signs of Lymphedema include:
- swelling of the limb or trunk on affected side
- “tightness” or “heaviness” of the limb
- indention of skin when swollen area is pressed
- frequent infections in affected limb
What happens if the condition is left untreated?
If Lymphedema is left untreated the affected tissues thicken and harden leading to decreased motion and eventually reduced function of the limb. There is also an increased rate of infection in the affected limb.
How do NMRMC therapists treat Lymphedema?
Our specially trained and certified Lymphedema specialists will conduct an:
- Evaluation to determine the proper course of treatment
- Manual lymph drainage (gentle massage) to drain fluid from affected area
- Bandaging of affected limb to reduce limb size
- Create an exercise program to enhance lymph drainage
- Assist patients in the selection of supplies and fitting for compression garments
For more information, call NMRMC Occupational Therapy at 620-432-5478.