What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition that leads to swelling, most commonly in the limbs, and often affects cancer patients after the surgical removal or injury of lymph nodes.
After lymph nodes are removed, the lymphatic system becomes compromised and the limb from which the nodes were removed tends to be affected. For breast cancer patients, the most affected area is the arm. Not all cancer patients who have undergone a lymph node resection will develop lymphedema, but it is a very common condition. It does not always develop immediately, it can occur after a period of time.
If left untreated, the affected limb can become and remain severely swollen. Lymphedema may also cause restricted range of motion in the affected area, discomfort, tightness or heaviness, and even recurring infection.
Oncology patients tend to be the most affected by lymphedema, but it may also be caused by congenital malformations or after other types of surgery.
Presently, there is no cure for lymphedema. However, the condition can be effectively managed with a specialized treatment program. Certified lymphedema therapists undergo intensive training in order to receive certification and offer these services to patients.
Initial treatment includes a four-course regimen of compression bandaging, a manual therapy technique used to drain the affected areas, skincare, and specialized exercises that target the affected limb. Therapists work patients through the course of treatment until their condition has improved and is stable. Then, they enter the maintenance phase of treatment in which their condition is monitored and progress is sustained. During this phase, patients are typically also fitted for a compression garment they must wear on the affected limb.
Patients with long-standing venous insufficiency are also candidates for this type of therapy as they can potentially develop a form of lymphedema.
Shannon offers a Lymphedema Program through its Neuro Rehabilitation Facility. Patients are accepted to the program through a physician referral.
For more information or to learn more about our services, please call 325.747.8025