What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid, protein, fat, and cell fragments in the tissue that develops because of a malfunction in the lymphatic system. Lymphedema is a chronic and progressive condition. As it advances, lymphedema may be accompanied by infection, skin changes and wounds.
Approximately 2.5 million people in the United States develop lymphedema with swelling that occurs in the legs, arms, face, trunk or genitalia.
Contact your doctor or nurse when symptoms first appear, as early diagnosis and treatment prevent complications. Some signs and symptoms of lymphedema may include:
In order to decrease the risk of developing or the worsening of existing lymphedema symptoms, the following precautions should be taken:
A referral from your physician is needed to receive an evaluation and treatment for lymphedema by one of our certified lymphedema therapists. Once the referral is received you will be scheduled for an evaluation. Your therapist will then develop an individualized, evidence based treatment plan and will manage your treatment. Our complete rehabilitation team consists of expert occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, social workers, and neuropsychologists in case there are other impairments that warrant treatment besides lymphedema.
An evaluation consists of a one-hour session with subsequent treatment sessions of 1-1.5 hours in duration. You will receive treatment four to five days per week for an average of 4-6 weeks or until maximum volume reduction is achieved. Complete Decongestive Therapy incorporates:
Once maximum volume reduction is achieved, you will be measured for compression garments which you will wear during the day. Additionally, you will use bandages at night or alternative nightwear compression. You will continue to perform exercises, skin/nail care, self-manual lymphatic drainage as well as attend follow-up visits with your certified lymphedema therapist as needed.
Learn more about treatment of lymphedema at Memorial Hermann.