Great strides have been taken through medicine to eradicate and cure diseases. But some diseases continue to defy scientists and remain incurable, such as cancer, diabetes, lupus, asthma and Parkinson’s disease. Another condition that cannot be cured, but can be managed and treated, is lymphedema.
Lymphedema occurs when lymph nodes can no longer filter waste materials or help lymph fluid circulate properly through the body. It is characterized by swelling that usually occurs in one arm or leg. Other symptoms in the affected limb include a feeling of heaviness or tightness, reduced range of motion, and aching, discomfort or recurring infection. It is important to seek immediate medical attention for lymphedema because early diagnosis and treatment can help minimize complications and keep the condition from worsening.
There are two types of lymphedema, primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition resulting from problems with the development of lymph vessels in the body. Secondary lymphedema occurs when the lymph nodes or lymph vessels are damaged; such as through surgery, radiation treatment for cancer, infection or cancer cells that block lymphatic vessels. The condition often occurs in patients whose treatment for breast cancer included removing all or part of the breast as well as lymph nodes under the arm.
The good news is that the symptoms of lymphedema can respond well to treatment and the condition is manageable. With proper care and treatment, lymphedema does not have to result in disfiguring swelling or recurrent infections.
The Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Palmetto General Hospital offers treatment for lymphedema by certified physical therapists. This effective treatment is known as complete decongestive therapy (CDT). The four components of CDT are:
-Manual lymphatic drainage: Specialized gentle massage performed by the lymphedema therapist designed to re-route fluid.
-Compression bandaging: After the fluids have been re-routed, the lymphedema therapist wraps the extremity with gradient pressure short stretch bandage.
-Skin care: Keeping the skin clean and well-conditioned is key to improving lymphatic drainage.
-Exercise: You will be provided with exercises to enhance the fluid flow through muscle contraction.
-Reduce the volume of fluid in the affected area and stabilize reduction
-Enable self-management of condition
-Soften skin texture and improve skin health
-Improve quality of life through effective control of swelling
Even a mild case of lymphedema should be treated to help decrease and prevent risk of poor mobility, infection and pain. If you suspect you have lymphedema, contact your physician for a referral.
For more information, please call the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Palmetto General Hospital 305-819-1344.
Text provided by Palmetto General Hospital