What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when lymphatic fluid (which carries the waste products of the body) becomes trapped and builds up in a specific part of the body. There are many reasons this can happen, but most often it is a result of lymph node dissection and/or radiation therapy.
Our Certified Lymphedema Therapists (CLT) can answer any questions you may have about ways to reduce your risk of developing this condition.
If you do develop lymphedema, we use Complete Decongestive Therapy to reduce it.
This is often referred to as the “gold standard” of treatment, and is a combination of manual lymph drainage (a special, gentle massage) and compression bandaging.
Once your swelling has reduced, we can assist you in obtaining the proper compression garment to wear to minimize the chance of a reoccurrence.
Complete Decongestive Therapy
As you know, there is currently no cure for lymphedema. The goal of therapy is to reduce the swelling and to maintain the reduction of volume. For the majority of patients, this can be achieved through skillful application of Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which consists the following combined modalities:
- Manual lymph drainage (MLD): This gentle, manual treatment technique redirects the lymph fluid from the involved limb towards fully functioning lymph nodes.
- Compression bandaging: A series of short stretch bandages and an assortment of padding is used to prevent fluid from reaccumulating in the limb, as well to soften any hard or “fibrotic” tissue in the limb. Once the limb has achieved its maximum reduction, the patient then wears a compression sleeve daily. With more complex cases, the patient may be instructed to wear a special night time garment.
- Exercise: While bandaged, flexing your muscles can help “pump” the fluid from the limb, and make bandaging more effective.
- Skin care: The skin of a swollen limb is often dry, weak and more susceptible to infection. Education of proper skin care is an important part of CDT.