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Lymphedema is a condition characterized by swelling — usually in the arm or leg, or in some cases, the torso, breast, face or neck. The swelling is caused when the lymphatic system is unable to work properly and an abnormal amount of fluid collects in the tissue of the affected area. It may be caused by a lymphatic system compromised at birth, or by an injury, paralysis, infection, surgery or "venous insufficiency," a condition in which veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs back to the heart.
Lymphedema may also occur in some patients after cancer treatments, such as radiation or lymph node removal. It can occur immediately after these treatments or sometimes months or even years later.
Our certified occupational and physical therapists have advanced training in lymphedema treatment, and help patients recognize early signs of the condition.
For example, a ring may seem difficult to remove from your finger your shirtsleeve feels tight, your pant legs, socks or shoes feel tight, or you may experience tingling, aching, burning or a feeling of heaviness or fullness in the affected limb.
Our team is committed to creating an individualized treatment plan to help patients understand, control and manage their condition.
Education: Instruction in skin care, manual lymphatic drainage and lymphedema risk reduction practices.
Treatment is typically scheduled two to three times a week for six to eight weeks, and is available for any patient concerned about developing lymphedema.
Exercise: Exercises that help the lymphatic system work more efficiently and improve flexibility, strength and endurance for daily living activities.
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD): MLD is a special type of massage to facilitate the drainage of lymphatic fluid from the affected area of the body.
Compression: Compression bandaging may be used to move fluid out of the affected part of the body. You may also be measured for a lymphedema compression garment.
Physician referral is required. Call 206-368-1769 for more information.
Additional information about lymphedema may be found at the following websites:
American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
Cancer Lifeline: www.cancerlifeline.org
National Lymphedema Network: www.lymphnet.org