Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of high protein fluid just beneath the skin. When the lymph vessels are unable to transport lymph fluid back to circulation it accumulates, resulting in swelling and thickening of the skin. Swelling most commonly occurs in the arms and legs but can also be found in the head, neck, genital area, chest and abdomen. It can affect people of all ages. Once the condition occurs swelling will increase if an effective treatment program is not initiated.
There are 2 types of Lymphedema: Primary and Secondary.
Primary Lymphedema is caused by a congenital malfunction of the lymphatic system. These malformations are most commonly found in women. They may be present at birth or may develop later, often during puberty or pregnancy. Primary Lymphedema is most common in the legs but may also occur in the arms or torso. Secondary Lymphedema is a result of damage to the lymphatic system. Surgical procedures such as mastectomy, lumpectomies with radiation, and/or removal of lymph nodes are the most common causes. Secondary Lymphedema is most commonly found in the arms but may also occur in the legs. Other causes may include a traumatic injury infection or severe chronic venous insufficiency.
How we help people with lymphedema
Complete Decongestive Therapy
We offer CDT, the gold standard in lymphedema care. CDT is the most successful treatment for chronic extremity Lymphedema and is gentle and non invasive Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) consists of the following four steps:
1. Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
In Lymphedema therapy MLD is used to reroute the lymph flow around blocked areas into healthy lymph vessels, which drain into the venous circulation. MLD is a very gentle manual treatment that improves the function of the lymphatic system throughout the body. In the 1930s the techniques of MLD were first introduced by Dr. Emil Vodder, PhD, MT from Denmark. MLD is becoming widely recognized in the United States as a treatment for many pathologies including post-surgical swelling, post-traumatic edema (e.g., sports injuries), migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. MLD is further used to promote general relaxation and for cleansing (detoxification) of the skin and superficial fascia. 2. Compression Therapy Compression therapy, uses multilayered bandages to increase tissue pressure and is applied between treatments to prevent the re-accumulation of evacuated edema fluid. Compression therapy also increases the efficiency of the the body’s own muscle and joint pumps, and is used until the limb is sufficiently decongested to be fitted for compression garments. We then will custom fit the client with appropriate compression garments as needed.
3. Exercises Remedial exercises, with the bandages or compression sleeve in place, are performed to activate the muscle and joint pumps of the affected extremity. This results in an increase in lymphokinetic activity and, over time, in further reduction of the swollen limb.
4. Skin Care Skin care and general hygiene are essential for eliminating bacterial and fungal growth, either of which can cause repeated attacks of Cellulitis or erysipelas. Because infections are very common complications of lymphedema, meticulous skin and nail care are integral elements of CDT.