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What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema can be defined by the persistence of chronic swelling of a part of the body due to a blockage of lymphatic fluid flow when either lymph nodes and/or lymph vessels have become compromised or damaged. The most common areas of lymphedema are the arm or leg, head and/or neck, genital areas and chest, trunk or abdomen.

Cause and Effect of Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a secondary condition most commonly caused by trauma/injury, surgery, infection, radiation, inflammation and/or venous insufficiency. A more rare cause of lymphedema is Hereditary Lymphedema: a congenital malformation in the lymphatic system that can be present at birth, or develop in adolescence, most often in females. Lymphedema is a serious condition and should be treated as soon as possible. Left untreated it can lead to other conditions including skin changes including hardening, discoloration, lymph blisters, leakage and eventually skin breakdown leading to chronic non-healing wounds. Lymphedema can also impair the function of the extremity limiting the range of motion and strength of the affected area.

Lymphedema Treatment

Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy also known as Complete Lymphedema Therapy provided by a specially trained Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT), this treatment option includes: meticulous skin and nail care, Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), compression therapy and range of motion exercise with compression in place to stimulate the lymph drainage system to decrease swelling.

Other treatment options include:

  • Compression garments including hosiery, stockings, sleeves and gloves.
  • Multilayer Compression Systems
  • Compression bandaging and supplies
  • Pneumatic Compression Device Therapy
  • Home-based self maintenance program including self bandaging and self lymphatic drainage techniques
  • Proper diet and nutritional counseling