Lymphedema is prolonged swelling that may either be caused by trauma to the lymphatic system (surgery, radiation, injury, infection) or due to malformation of the lymph system. The swelling progresses slowly, and if untreated can lead to other problems such as skin changes, skin breakdown, and infection. Also, there may be a loss of motion and strength, making normal activity more difficult.
The Certified Lymphedema Therapists at the Patricia Neal Outpatient Center perform individualized treatment based on each patient’s medical history and their needs and goals. Treatment consists of Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) which includes four major components:
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD): A gentle manual technique applied to the skin to help stimulate the lymphatic system and move the fluid out of the affected area.
- Compression Therapy: Application of short-stretch compression bandages, and later compression garments, to reduce the swelling and prevent re-accumulation of fluid into the swollen limb.
- Gentle exercise to reduce swelling and improve motion and strength.
- Skin care to prevent skin breakdown and infections.