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Lymphedema Treatment and Management

Lymphedema is a form of swelling that usually occurs in an arm or leg and develops because the lymphatic system is not working properly. It may begin as mild swelling that comes and goes, and is usually worse in the evening and better in the morning.

There are two types: primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema results from an inadequately developed lymphatic system. Secondary lymphedema, the most common type, occurs as a result of damage done to the lymphatic system usually following:

  • Lymph node removal/dissection
  • Radiation therapy
  • Liposuction
  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Scarring

What are the symptoms of lymphedema?

  • Swelling that initially comes and goes
  • Skin texture feels thicker or harder
  • Limb swelling becomes more permanent
  • Swelling can become so excessive that limb size increases tremendously making it difficult to fit into clothing or footwear
  • Complaints of heaviness and difficulty moving may exist

Why should I have my lymphdema treated?

Lymphedema is a chronic and progressive condition that usually worsens over time. Complications include:

  • Increased risk for infection
  • Fungal growth on skin or nails
  • Fibrotic tissue (skin hardens)
  • Skin breakdown
  • Leaking clear or milky fluid
  • Large skin folds

How is Lymphedema treated?

Many people have been told that they will have to live with Lymphedema, but effective treatment does exist. Our MVHS Rehabilitation Services provides an effective treatment program called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) that includes:

  • Manual lymph drainage (MLD)
  • Compression
  • Remedial exercises
  • Skin care
  • Home management education
  • Compression garment fittings

Limited financial assistance for breast cancer patients may be available through grants.

For more information or to ask questions, please call 315-624-5462.