Lymphedema is an accumulation of abnormal amounts of protein-rich fluid in the tissues of the body. This accumulation of fluid may lead to permanent swelling caused by an impaired network of lymph nodes and channels. Patients often develop this condition after having surgery or radiation to an arm or leg.
The Lymphology Association of North America estimates that there are 2.5 million people in the United States with some form of lymphedema.
If left untreated, lymphedema can lead to decreased function and mobility in the affected limb. It can also lead to chronic infections and other illnesses. It is important to receive treatment promptly if you recognize symptoms of lymphedema.
Symptoms of Lymphedema
- Full sensation in the affected area of the body
- Tight skin
- Decreased ability to move the wrist, hand or ankle
- Difficulty fitting into clothing in a specific area
- Ring, bracelet or wrist watch tightness
Treatment of Lymphedema
- Decongestive therapy—a type of massage therapy performed by a specially trained therapist
- Garment fit and training
- Nutritional education
- Medical management of associated pain or infections
- Education to prevent or minimize effects of lymphedema
- Support of psychological well–being
Lymphedema cannot be cured. However, through proper care and treatment, affected body parts can return to a normal size and shape.
The LifeBridge Health Lymphedema
Service has an experienced team of caring individuals including physicians, therapists and psychologists. Additionally, on site at Sinai is an Image Recovery Center, where lymphedema products are offered. The Image Recovery staff works with the physician or therapist to handle all paperwork and insurance requirements.
Those currently experiencing lymphedema should contact their physician for a referral to the Lymphedema Service.
To schedule an appointment with a lymphedema physical therapist, please call 410-601-5855.