Lymphedema is swelling caused by excess amounts of fluid (lymph) in the tissues of the body. This can occur when there is an abnormality in the lymph system that is impeding lymph flow. Excess fluid can remain in the affected tissues of the body, leading to swelling of the area.Lymphedema can develop in any part of the body.
There are two types of lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is a condition that one is born with, whereas secondary lymphedema can be caused by trauma, infection, radiation, or surgical procedures. It is not uncommon for people with cancer to develop lymphedema.
Signs and symptoms to watch out for are:
- Tightness of the skin
- Trouble with the fitting of clothes
- Decreased joint mobility
- The area may be slightly pink
- Some describe a tingling sensation
How is lymphedema managed?
- Treatment planning of lymphedema depends on the cause. Treatment usually involves a combination of approaches known as Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT).
The basic principles of Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) are:
- Skin Care
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) – a special type of massage
- Compression garments or bandaging
- Education on self management (exercise, massage, risk reduction)
Therapists require specific training to perform Manual Lymphatic Drainage. The well-known organisations that provide this training in Canada are:
- Vodder School
- Norton School
- Integrated LymphaticTherapy
- Upledger Institute
It is recommended that people with lymphedema seek appropriately trained therapists to assist in the management of this condition. Action Potential Rehabilitation has both physiotherapists and massage therapists with certification in Manual Lymphatic Drainage. They are able to provide individual therapy to you in the comfort of your home.