Lymphedema is swelling generallly in the arms or legs due to a blockage in your lymphatic system. It is an abnormal accumulation of protein rich fluid that often leads to swelling of a body part. The most common lymphedema patients are those who have experienced breast cancer treatment.
What 'types' of lymphedema are there?
There are two types of Lymphedema:
Primary - which can occur at birth or early in life with no injury to the lymphatic system.
Secondary - which can be caused by an injury to the lymphatic system or surgical intervention such as lymph node removel in cancer diagnosis. Swelling may occur in the lower extremities, arms, neck or trunk.
Poor drainage of the lymphatic system might make your arm or leg more susceptible to infection, and even a small infection could lead to serious lymphedema. You can help prevent lymphedema by avoiding cuts and abrasions, needle sticks and blood draws, burns and insect bites on the affected limb.
How is Lymphedema treated?
Mild cases - In the early stages of lymphedema, when the swelling is mild, it can often be managed by compression garments, exercise and elevating of the affected limb to encourage lymph flow.
Moderate-to-severe cases - For more severe swelling, the physical therapist may use a treatment called "complete decongestive therapy". The initial step often includes manual lymphatic drainage, which feels like a light from of massage and helps improve the flow of lymph from your arm or leg. This is followed by compression bandaging that helps to reduce the swelling. Your therapist will carefully monitor the size of the limb throughout your treatment sessions.
Dr. Nichole Chennault is one of the few physical therapists in the Central Valley who treats Lymphedema. Call her today for an evaluation.