Lymphedema Treatment

Service Provided By Baxter Regional Medical Center Outpatient Physical Therapy Department

Lymphedema is a chronic, progressive condition in which excessive lymph builds up in the body causing swelling. This condition occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged or lymph nodes are removed. Since the lymphatic system is a part of the immune system, a compromised or non-functioning lymphatic system places anyone who has lymphedema at a risk of repeated infections.

Types

Primary Lymphedema may be caused by congenital (hereditary) malformation of the lymphatic system. Primary lymphedema is largely attributed to genetic causes.

Secondary Lymphedema is more common, affecting 2-3 million people in the US. It is an acquired condition caused by a physical disruption to the lymphatic system. Examples of secondary lymphedema include cancer treatment, benign or malignant tumor growth, accident or trauma, surgery, infection, obesity, chronic venous insufficiency, and filariasis infection (infiltration by insects mainly in 3rd world countries).

Symptoms

Symptoms of lymphedema include unusual swelling, a feeling of heaviness in the extremity, tightness of skin in the extremity or not being able to wear normal size clothing due to swelling, certain types of skin changes [thick rigid skin, lumpy/bumpy skin (papillomatosis), or ulceration of skin with or without lymph fluid discharge], and small/underdeveloped (hypoplastic) toenails.

There is currently no cure for lymphedema, but the management of symptoms is possible. Lymphedema can progress if untreated, leading to increased swelling and pain, hardening of the skin, and recurrent infections (cellulitis). Lymphedema can decrease mobility, coordination, the range of motion, and the ability to perform day to day activities. It also may significantly increase the cost of healthcare.

Treatments

Management of lymphedema is usually achieved with a combination of therapist-directed in clinic treatment and at home self-care. With effective treatment, patients can manage their symptoms, minimize infections, improve their health and quality of life, and reduce overall healthcare cost.

If you believe that you could benefit from our many medical services, ask your primary care physician to refer you to the Baxter Regional Medical Center outpatient Physical Therapy Department.

Call us at (870) 508-1560 to learn more or to schedule an appointment.