What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the abnormal accumulation of protein-enriched fluid (lymph fluid) which appears as swelling in an arm or leg. This swelling can lead to hardening of the underlying tissue and skin (fibrosis) and also increases the risk for infection (cellulitis).
What are the symptoms of lymphedema?
Initial symptoms of lymphedema are a feeling of heaviness, achiness or tightness of the arm, hand, leg or foot, or the inability to wear rings, watches or clothing due to discomfort or tightness. Often times, there is not visible swelling in the extremity initially. As the lymphedema progresses, visible swelling will occur. As it continues to progress, the tissue will thicken or harden.
How is lymphedema treated? Can it be cured?
There is no cure for lymphedema at this time. The key to managing lymphedema is early identification and treatment. At SSI, we have Physical Therapists (PT) who specialize in lymphedema treatment and management. Initial treatment involves education about caring for the involved extremity and the importance of compliance to the program. The next step is to decrease the swelling using manual techniques and compression bandaging. Ultimately, the patient is fitted with a compression garment (sleeve or stocking) to wear. Compression is the key to maintaining the lymphedema extremity. Proper care of the extremity and wearing the compression garment will achieve this.
If you have undiagnosed swelling in an extremity or would like more information, contact us today!