What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition which causes swelling in different parts of the body due to an accumulation of fluid. If often occurs in the arms and legs. Chronic venous insufficiency, cancer, cancer treatment (such as radiation), infection, obesity, trauma, scar tissue, surgical procedures and genetics are examples of events that can trigger lymphedema. If left untreated, lymphedema can complicate wound healing, limit mobility, cause skin breakdown, leading to infection and fibrosis (a hardening of connective tissue). Neglecting the symptoms of lymphedema may result in a ceaseless cycle of uncomfortable swelling and infection, affecting a person’s overall quality of life. With proper treatment, lymphedema may be prevented or controlled. Research shows lymphedema therapy combined with self-care can help dramatically decrease symptoms and improve outcomes. At AZH, we develop a personalized treatment plan for your specific needs. Our collaborative approach enables us to provide optimal results for each of our patients.
Lymphedema Treatment Options
Complete Decongestive Therapy or CDT is considered the “gold standard” of care in treating lymphedema and consists of 2 phases:
A combination of comprehensive treatments to significantly decrease and decongest the area of swelling.
Now that the area of swelling has been reduced, the individual is assessed for a proper-fitting compression garment and is educated in a self-care program for home.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Manual Lymphatic Drainage, also known as MLD or lymph massage, is a specialized manual treatment that stimulates the lymphatics. This gentle treatment facilitates the movement of excess fluid. It is most effective when used in conjunction with the other therapies listed below.
Multi-Layer Compression Bandaging is used during the decongestive phase. When an individual’s limb becomes enlarged and the lymph valves are fatigued, unable to efficiently pump fluid out of the affected area, multi-layer wraps are warranted. Your provider will determine the appropriate layers and perhaps add different types of foams to address fibrotic or hardened areas that further inhibit lymph flow. The decongestive phase is most effective when the multi-layer wraps are used in combination with manual lymphatic drainage and an individualized home exercise program.
Compression Garments for your chronic swelling condition will be determined by your practitioner. When an individual is transitioned from phase 1 of decongestive treatment, a compression garment is selected that will best suit one’s needs. When determining a compression garment, various factors are taken into account: whether the individual needs both a day and night time garment, whether a ready-made or custom garment is required and determining the person’s physical ability in donning the garment. Your experienced provider will determine if assistive devices are needed to assist with donning or doffing the garment.
Home Exercise Program
Your therapist will work with you to determine an individualized home exercise program that best suits your needs. Often remedial and lymphatic-stimulating exercises are instructed. Self-manual lymphatic drainage instruction is also helpful. A pneumatic compression pump may be appropriate and your therapist will help facilitate the best option for you.
Good skin care plays a vital part in the treatment of lymphedema. Any break in the skin, however small, can be an entry site for germs. AZH will design a skin care plan that’s right for you.
This taping method may be used to break up scar tissue or adhesions that can inhibit lymph flow. Additional lymphatic drainage taping applications may also be helpful with lymph stimulation and fluid movement.
is a wellness program that provides countless benefits to young adults through seniors, regardless of health, age or ability level. Check with your AZH healthcare provider for further class information.
Pneumatic Compression Pumps
may be a helpful tool with stimulating the lymphatics and moving excess fluid. Your practitioner will work with you in determining the best option.