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What to expect

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a treatment for swelling of the legs, arms and other body parts. Although lymphedema can develop in any area where there is normal flow of lymph fluid, it is most commonly seen in the extremities and almost always takes place at the most superficial level of the lymph vessels, under the skin. Other areas where lymphedema can develop include the head/neck region, chest, body cavities, pelvic region, and genitals. When lymph fluid accumulates due to blockage, it can reduce the amount of nutrients that reach the cells and can interfere with wound healing, and can put you at an increased risk of infection, therefore it is very important to seek treatment!

Patient’s often wonder how does someone get lymphedema? Sometimes people are born with it (hereditary with a later onset in life) and other times patients acquire it after having a surgery or medical condition.
Lymphedema signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling that can occur in part or all of the neck, trunk, arm or leg, including fingers or toes.
  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Recurring infections
  • Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)

Signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Lymphedema caused by cancer treatment may not occur until months or years after treatment.

How is lymphedema treated?

In order to treat lymphedema a therapist must take a certification course to provide a thorough assessment and treatment plan designed for each individual patient. Many medical conditions or history may change your treatment plan.

There are a variety of of treatment options that are specific to each patient but may include:

  • Manual lymphatic drainage (MLT)
  • Compression
  • Exercises to help promote fluid reduction and uptake