Lymphedema is swelling in your legs, arm or face due to an abnormality in the lymphatic system. Causes can be primary (lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired) or secondary (lymph nodes are removed or lymph vessels are damaged).
If lymphedema is not treated it will progress through stages.
Stage 0: Latency: A patient has had some change in their lymphatic system (i.e. lymph nodes removed) which places them at risk for developing lymphedema.
Stage 1: Spontaneously Reversible. In this stage the limb will swell throughout the day but in the morning the limb will look normal.
Stage 2: Spontaneously Irreversible: In this stage the skin is non-pitting and will start to harden due to fibrosis.
Stage 3: Lymphostatic Elephantiasis. In this stage the tissue is very fibrotic (hard) and the patient may have wounds, frequent infections and lymphorrhea (clear lymphatic fluid leaking from the skin).
Primary Lymphedema can be present at birth, during puberty (lymphedema praecox) or in adulthood (lymphedema tarda) from unknown causes or in conjunction with vascular anomolies.
Secondary Lymphedema can develop from surgery, radiation, infection or trauma. Specific surgeries which require the removal of lymph nodes put patients at risk for developing lymphedema. Secondary lymphedema can occur immediately, weeks, months or even years after removal of lymph nodes.
Full sensation in limb or limbs
Skin feeling tight
Decreased ROM in the affected limb
Clothes or jewelry not fitting correctly
Progressive swelling throughout the day
At Preferred Physical Therapy our staff will customize an individualized treatment plan for your specific stage and type of lymphedema. The therapy provided is the Gold Standard for Lymphedema care, which is called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). CDT is a treatment plan that consists of:
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Compression Bandaging with short stretch bandages (not ACE bandages)
Skin and nail care
Home Management Program
Compression Garments to maintain reduction in the affected limb(s).
Our clinic offers the special compression bandages and compression garments for sale. Compression garments can be custom made or be over the counter.
Our therapists are Certified Lymphedema Therapists which means they have completed a 135 hour course relating specifically to lymphedema. They are also board certified through the Lymphology Association of North America.