Lymphedema is the abnormal swelling of a body part, most often an arm or leg, caused by an improperly functioning lymphatic system. Occasionally, it may increase the risk of infection, fibrosis, and if left untreated can cause massive swelling, skin damage, slow healing wounds and impaired functional ability. Lymphedema cannot be cured, but it can be managed.
There are two types of Lymphedema: primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is caused by a congenital defect when the lymphatic system is malformed at birth and it may also present later in life. Secondary lymphedema may occur after surgical removal of lymph nodes, or radiation treatment for various cancers, most often breast cancer regarding onset of upper extremity lymphedema. Lymphedema can affect an individual’s self esteem, mobility, appearance, and comfort.
Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital (SIRH) can help upper extremity lymphedema sufferers with a specialized therapy program. This program offers relief from symptoms and provides the tools and knowledge to help manage lymphedema.
Lymphedema Treatment of the Upper Extremity consists of Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT):
- Comprehensive evaluation by a certified upper extremity therapist
- Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) – specialized massage to promote drainage of the lymph fluid causing the edema (swelling).
- Compression Bandaging – special bandages applied to prevent the limb from refilling with fluid and to promote lymphatic drainage between treatments for improved limb volume reduction.
- Exercise – Specific exercises performed with compression bandages to utilize muscle action to pump edema from the affected limb.
- Self Care and Education – One on one, hands on education per specially trained therapists on lymphedema management at home per the patient and/or family. Includes instruction in self massage, skin care and related issues.
- Compression Garment Fitting – When appropriate a custom elastic support garment is ordered for the patient once the patient’s overall limb volume has been successfully reduced. This garment helps maintain the benefits of therapy and prevent future stagnation of fluid in the limb.
If you think you may be suffering from lymphedema see your physician immediately. With a referral from your physician, treatment through the upper extremity lymphedema management program may improve your overall quality of life.
For more information about the upper Extremity Lymphedema Management program, or to schedule an appointment, call (812) 941-6134.