WHAT IS LYMPHEDEMA?
Lymphedema is the accumulation of excess fluid (swelling) in one or multiple areas of the body due to malformation (primary) or damage (secondary) of the lymphatic system. Lymphedema most commonly affects the legs, arms, chest and neck, but may also be seen in the face, back, abdomen and genitals. Primary lymphedema is the result of a genetic condition. Symptoms may be present at birth or develop later, usually presenting during a life event such as puberty or pregnancy. Primary lymphedema is most common in the legs. Secondary lymphedema is the result of damage to the lymphatic system. Symptoms are most often caused by surgical procedures such as mastectomies and lumpectomies but may also present after cancer and the related treatments, trauma injuries, chronic venous insufficiency and blood clots, infection, or obesity. Secondary lymphedema is most common in the arms. Lymphedema affects women, men and children, but it most commonly occurs in women by almost twice the rate.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Lymphedema may develop within months or even years of a procedure. The first obvious sign of lymphedema is swelling characterized by “pitting.” Other symptoms include:
- Tightness or heaviness
- Aching or discomfort
- Thickening of the skin (hyperkeratosis)
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS?
At Armworks Hand Therapy, we categorize our treatments into three components: manual lymph drainage, compressions and specialized exercises. Unfortunately, there is no cure to lymphedema, so our goal is to reduce swelling to maintain function. The application of our treatment components is delivered two times per week by specially trained and certified therapist.
- MANUAL LYMPH DRAINAGE (MLD): Initially, manual massage techniques are used to move the lymph fluid out of the affected region.
- GRADUATED COMPRESSION GARMENTS OR BANDAGES: Once swelling is reduced, the patient is fitted with a specialized graduated compression garment. This is not a passive phase; the patients must continue self-lymph drainage, monitor skin care and perform exercises.
- SPECIALIZED EXERCISES: Specific designed exercises are given to stimulate circulation and improve range of motion and strength.
WHAT IS MY NEXT STEP?
Begin your road to recovery! Make an appointment to be evaluated by our Certified Lymphedema Specialist at our Beaverton or Gresham Armworks locations. You can schedule an appointment online or call our clinic directly. We look forward treating you!