What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a chronic condition characterized by swelling of the patient’s extremities. Patients who have this condition often encounter difficulty with movement, infection and limb disfigurement.
Causes of Lymphedema
Lymphedema is caused by an abnormal accumulation of lymph, a natural body fluid produced by filtration of blood in the capillaries and transported by the lymphatic vessels. Best known as the body’s immune network, the lymphatic system filters fluid through the lymph nodes and removes bacteria, toxins and dead cells.
If the nodes have been injured or removed, the lymphatic system’s ability to filter lymph may be compromised, causing the fluid to accumulate in tissues. In some people, this is a congenital condition. Although lymphedema cannot be cured, it can be controlled with proper care.
Length of Therapy
Our therapists are trained to treat this abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues of the upper extremity in Stage I, Stage II and Stage III lymphedema patients. Mild cases may be relieved by short-term treatment of a few days; severe cases may require weeks or months of specialized daily treatment.
Patients gain significant benefits from early diagnosis and intervention. Early identification and treatment of lymphedema reduces of risk of infection and may improve the strength and mobility of the affected extremity. In addition, patient compliance and commitment to the recommended plan of care is essential for achieving optimal benefit from therapy. If left untreated, lymphedema may be difficult to control.
Indications for Treatment
- Primary lymphedema (congenital, praecox, tarda) from unknown causes or associated with vascular anomalies
- Secondary lymphedema resulting from surgery, radiation, infection or trauma
Learn more about treatment of lymphedema at Memorial Hermann.