What is Lymphedema ?
Lymphedema is a chronic and progressive disease caused by a build up of fluid in the body's tissues resulting in disfiguring swelling. Lymphedema is a risk factor for tissue damage and celluitius, a bacteria infection of the skin. Lymphedema may be caused by abnormal development of the lymph system or as a result of damage to the lymph system from illness, radiation, or surgical scar tissue.
Lymphedema Risk Factors
- Removal and/or radiation of lymph nodes in the groin, neck, pelvis, or underarm
- Being overweight or obese
- Slow healing skin after surgery
- Blockage of the left lymph duct or lymph nodes or vessels in the abdomen, chest, neck, pelvis, or underarm.
- Scar tissue in the lymph nodes in the collarbone caused by surgery or radiation.
Symptoms to Discuss with a Medical Professional
Symptoms may be associated with conditions other than lymphedema. It is important to contact your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.
- Swelling of arm or leg, including fingers and toes
- Feeling of heaviness or fullness in arm or leg
- Skin tightness
- Difficulty moving joints in the affected arm or leg
- Thickening of skin with or without changes such as blisters or warts
- Tightness when wearing bracelets, clothing, rings, shoes, or watches
- Itching of legs or toes
- Burning sensation in legs
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Hair loss
Damage to the lymph system cannot be repaired. Treatment can control swelling and discomfort, and prevent other problems from developing. Specialized Occupational therapy help patients with activities of daily living, pain control, and improved mobility of affected limb. Medication is not generally used for long-term therapy.
A Certified Lymphedema Therapist uses clinical expertise and training to treat chronic extremity lymphedema, post-mastectomy lymphedema, and other related conditions using multi-part Complete Decongestive Therapy, a gentle, non-invasive, and highly effective therapy.
Benefits of Complete Decongestive Therapy
- Improves function of the lymphatic sytem
- Reduces swelling
- Teaches self maintenance exercises
- Teaches proper fitting and use of compression garments
Tips to Manage Lymphedema
- Careful skin care to prevent infection
- Avoid needle sticks in affected limb
- Do not use blood pressure cuff on the affected arm
- Do not cross legs while sitting
- Keep affected limb elevated above the heart when possible
- Do not apply heat to affected limb
- Maintain a healthy weight
A referral from your primary care provider or specialist is required for lymphedema therapy. Please call (870)262-1271 for more information or to arrange a referral.