What is Lymphedema?Lymphedema is a lymphatic disease characterized by swelling of the skin caused by fluid build-up. The lymphatic system protects the body from harmful bacteria and helps maintain a normal fluid balance. When lymph nodes do not work properly or are damaged, this can lead to an imbalance in fluid and lead to swelling. This swelling is most often in an arm or leg but can happen elsewhere. Radiation treatment can potentially damage the lymphatic system and cause lymphedema. It can also be caused by surgeries, such as breast cancer surgery, and thus is commonly associated with breast cancer.
Lymphedema SymptomsThe most common symptom of lymphedema is swelling of an arm or leg. This swelling is initially soft but can harden and lead to restricted mobility, discomfort, and infections. The amount of swelling can vary greatly. Breast cancer related lymphedema can lead to swelling in the arm, forearm, hand, breast and trunk. Tightness of skin, restricted motion, and aching can accompany swelling.
Lymphedema CausesPrimary lymphedema is caused by natural problems in the lymphatic system originating from a person’s genes. This is less common than secondary lymphedema which is caused when the lymphatic system is damaged, usually from a surgery or radiation treatment. Patients are not always warned about the risk of lymphedema when undergoing radiation treatment or surgery and symptoms can occur months or years afterward. Secondary lymphedema is usually more localized, occurring where the radiation or surgery was done. Once lymph nodes and lymph vessels are damaged, the lymphatic system can no longer adequately drain fluid. This fluid then builds up in soft tissue and causes swelling.
Lymphedema TreatmentsWhile there is no permanent cure for lymphedema, there have been effective ways to manage it. Treatments for lymphedema at CURE PT include therapeutic exercises that will improve motion and move fluid. Proper skin care and compression bandaging are taught as well. Our therapists also use Gentle Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) to further move lymphatic fluid.
Breast Cancer and LymphedemaBreast cancer related lymphedema, which can cause significant swelling of the involved arm, forearm, and hand, breast, and even the trunk, is mostly caused by damage and trauma to the body's lymphatic system during treatment for cancer and can include limited movement, joint pain, and difficulty performing overhead activities. Therapists that have had the additional certification for Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) are experts in restoring motion and mobility, and not only treat the effects of lymphedema, but also reduce the risk of recurrence.
Our ApproachOur Certified Lymphedema Therapists (CLTs) work with patients to carefully monitor their symptoms and to teach them the best ways to manage the condition. We strive to know patients and their health on an individual level so that the best plan for successful treatment can be implemented. Therapists at CURE PT also have additional certifications for Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and skilled in working to restore motion and mobility as well as reduce the risk of reoccurring issues.
Call us today for more information on Lymphedema or Request Appointment