Lymphedema. It’s a word that is unknown to some and all too familiar to others. Lymphedema is different than your typical “swelling.” The kind of swelling most of us are familiar with is called Edema and we’ve certainly all experienced it at one time or another with an accidental ankle twist or following knee surgery last year.
Lymphedema is an accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the tissues surrounding your cells. The job of the protein is to attract water causing the limb or body area affected to become swollen. The tricky part is that unless this protein rich fluid is mobilized into the lymphatic system, there is continued congestion and inflammation. This progression of swelling can become chronic and quite problematic.
So, how do you end up with lymphedema?
Basically, any insult to the lymphatic system could result in varying lymphedema degrees. Cancer treatment is one of the most familiar causes. But it could also be caused by infection, chronic venous insufficiency, obesity or trauma. Rarely, an individual may be born with lymphedema!
The good news is when lymphedema is identified and diagnosed early, it can be well managed with the proper treatment and guidance from none other than your Physical Therapist!
Your Certified Lymphedema Therapist will be specially trained in Complete Decongestive Therapy. This 135-hour comprehensive training prepares therapists to deliver the foundations of this treatment:
manual lymphatic drainage (no needles involved!)
meticulous skin care
A diagnosis of lymphedema can be overwhelming. The first step is gaining knowledge to understand how to put yourself back in control!
At the visit with your therapist, you can expect..........
thorough evaluation of your symptom presentation
questions about the timeline of how and when your symptoms began
measurement of limb volume differences
mobility and strength assessment of affected joints
education on risk reduction practices
With any luck, there will be time left to begin the manual treatment, which most patients find incredibly soothing and relaxing! You and your therapist will decide on a treatment plan and the rest is history. You will be on your way to wellness!
A special thanks for our very own Certified Lymphedema Therapist, Dr. Rebecca Corrente.
Want to hear more from Dr. Corrente? Shoot us an email with the link below.