What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is swelling in your arms or legs due to a obstruction of lymphatic pathways. Lymphatic pathways are what carry tissue fluid out of an area. If lymphedema is left untreated, swelling from the obstructions can take over your body part. The swelling can impair your ability to live your life the way you want to.
Lymphedema patients who have been educated on their condition often think that nothing can be done since you can’t “cure” lymphedema. Even though lymphedema is something you will have for the rest of your life, therapy with a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) can be very effective. A CLT can teach better management of lymphedema symptoms, reduce exacerbations, and improve your quality of life.
Managing chronic conditions like lymphedema can be confusing and frustrating. Here is what to expect when you see a Certified Lymphedema Therapist:
What to Expect: Your Appointment with a Certified Lymphedema Therapist
History of Lymphedema Treatment
At the initial evaluation, a thorough medical history is taken to determine the type of lymphedema and if any prior treatments have been completed. It is discussed if the patient has already been educated on or has started on daily compression.
This thorough history helps the therapist determine the approach and lymphedema pathways that will be used during manual lymphatic drainage and treatment. Measurements are taken of both limbs or area that the lymphedema has settled in for a baseline measurement and to track progress.
The patient and their family are educated on how the lymphatic system works. This is helpful in understanding how to better manage lymphedema. Proactive lymphedema management reduces any risk of skin breakdown, infections, and limited mobility. Strength and balance testing may also be performed. Then the lymphedema pathways are slowly cleared with manual lymphatic drainage.
Many who live with lymphedema have tried some sort of elevation or daily compression. However, many don’t realize there are more options to help better manage their lymphedema. Getting these patients set up on a home lymphedema pump is very beneficial. Treatments will still include manual lymphatic drainage. But a CLT can get the patient properly fitted for daily compression garments.
Lymphedema Management Supplies
Due to a variety of financial restrictions for a lot of lymphedema patients, many think they can’t afford wraps, compression stockings/sleeves, or home pumps. However, a Certified lymphedema Therapist has many connections with these types of companies and representatives. There are waivers available to low income patients to get them the equipment they might need to better manage their lymphedema and symptoms.
Lymphedema Treatment for Cancer Patients
Cancer patients can develop lymphedema as a side effect of their cancer treatment. The treatments and procedures done for the cancer are taken into consideration. Any surgical interventions done can change which lymphatic pathways are used to re-route the lymphedema fluid. These patients may see a quicker response to the manual lymphatic drainage vs chronic lymphedema patients, because they usually haven’t had the swelling quite as long. However, patients that have to go through radiation will find slower progress due to the restrictions and hardening of the skin and pathways following this treatment.
Lymphedema Therapy is available at Millennium Therapy locations in Clarence, Eagle Grove, Fort Dodge, and Independence. Home based therapy may also be available. Contact your nearest location for more information. We look forward to hearing from you!