Lymphedema is an unhealthy accumulation of lymph fluid in the body. Your lymph fluid is responsible for fighting infection and disease by collecting and moving bacteria, viruses and waste that are found in your body. When extra fluid builds up, it creates swelling, usually in an arm or leg.
Lymphedema can result from injury, surgery, cancer treatment or is sometimes a hereditary disorder. It can lead to infection and pain. Once you have lymphedema, it can be managed, but not cured. Therefore, it is important to prevent it from occurring.
Treatment consists of:
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage
- Compression bandaging
- Therapeutic exercises
- Skin care
- Patient education
- Compression garments
Depending on the stage or progression of the disorder, the plan of care is determined individually and may require intensive phase treatments 3 times/week to decrease swelling and progress to compression bandaging as soon as possible. Intensive therapy is followed by a second, individualized management phase of treatment that is designed to continue improvement.
Below was a case of advanced bilateral, lower extremity Lymphedema treated with 12 sessions of Complete Decongestive Therapy. The legs were done one at a time for the comfort of the patient. You can see how fibrous the tissue had become. There is a high risk of infection with this type of swelling. After the series of sessions, the skin was losing its fibrous layer and continues to improve. The patient is now able to move around more easily and have a better quality of life.