What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is an accumulation of protein-rich fluid into the soft tissues of the body which leads to swelling, most often in the arm(s) and/or leg(s), and occasionally in other parts of the body. Lymphedema can develop as a result of surgery, radiation, infection, trauma, venous disease, burns or immobility. Specific surgeries which currently require removal of lymph nodes put patients at risk for developing lymphedema. Examples of these surgeries include procedures done on melanomas, breasts, gynecological structures, head or neck, prostate or testicles, and bladder or colon.
When does it occur?
Lymphedema can occur immediately, post-operatively, within a few months or years, or as late as 20 years after injury to the lymphatic system. If left untreated, lymphedema can lead to infection and more serious complications.
What is the affect of lymphedema?
Lymphedema impacts physical and psychosocial health. It can limit range of motion in the affected limb, making everyday activities difficult.
Who would benefit from therapy?
Those who have undergone surgeries or treatments or sustained trauma that has injured the lymphatic system would benefit from therapy, as well as patients who suffer from primary lymphedema.
If you are at risk for developing lymphedema, you can act to prevent it. If lymphedema has occurred, you can act to keep the condition from worsening.
The Breast Health Center at Union Hospital offers specialized services for the treatment of lymphedema, including:
- decongestive therapy
- manual lymph drainage
- compression bandaging
- exercises for improving lymphatic circulation
- education in self management techniques
- risk-reduction practices
- monitoring for and preventing complications
- skin care and education
Ann M. Shiber, MPT, CLT-LANA
Certified Lymphedema Therapist
E-mail: Send e-mail
To schedule an appointment:
Our specially-trained and certified physical therapist works closely with you and your doctor to customize an appropriate treatment plan for you.