What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an abnormal buildup of fluid that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs. The condition develops when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are missing, impaired, damaged or removed.

This condition can be inherited (primary) or caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels (secondary). It is most frequently seen after lymph node dissection, surgery and/or radiation therapy, in which damage to the lymphatic system is caused during the treatment of cancer, most notably breast cancer. In many cancer patients, this condition does not develop until months or even years after their therapy has concluded. Lymphedema may also be associated with accidents, certain diseases or problems that may inhibit the lymphatic system from functioning properly. Signs and symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • Swelling of part of your arm or entire arm or leg, including fingers and toes
  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness in your arm or leg
  • Restricted range of motion in your arm or leg
  • Aching or discomfort in your arm or leg
  • Recurring infections in your affected limb
  • Hardening and thickening of the skin on your arm or leg

Can lymphedema be cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for lymphedema but there is treatment to control it. Treatment includes Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) done by a certified MLD therapist, special bandage techniques and exercise. It is a team effort between the patient and the therapist. In most cases, the therapist sees the patient five days a week for two weeks. The patient is taught decongestive exercises, self-MLD and self-bandaging. The patient is also measured and fitted for a compression garment and advised to wear the garment every day after completing therapy sessions.

Where can I get help?

CRMC offers lymphedema therapy in the rehabilitation department with two certified therapists. Please call 620-252-1505 for an appointment.

Rehab Hours: Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.