Characteristics of Lymphedema
- Lymphedema is swelling in an area of the body. The swelling is commonly located in the arms, legs, chest, pelvic area, and/or face.
- The swelling can be disfiguring, create a cosmetic problem, and or limit functional abilities in everyday tasks. The area of swelling may also feel painful and/or heavy.
- The swelling may be consistent. It may affect all or part of the body area and it may feel different in other areas, such as hard or soft feel.
Causes of Lymphedema
Large proteins in the body, which must always be accompanied by water, cannot be drained in the body through the venous system but only through its own system- the lymphatic system. Noticeable swelling is caused by a disruption to the lymphatic system in the following ways:
- Primary- when the cause is internal to the body. The fault develops in the lymphatic system. It can be something a person is affected with from birth.
- Secondary- when the cause is external to the body. The damage occurs from one or more factors outside the lymph system. Some of the causes for secondary swelling include cancer and its treatments. The treatments include removal of lymph nodes, mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and also surgery or fracture.
Treatment of Lymphedema
First the patient is given an evaluation that covers all possible causes of the onset or recurrence of lymphedema. Then the therapist analyzes the involved limb for girth (size) and tissue density or fullness, to determine the severity.
Treatment of Lymphededma includes:
- Manual Lymph Drainage: This specifc technique utilizes hands on maneuvers aimed at successfully increasing the uptake of the fluid carrying proteins (lymph).
- Bandaging: This special bandaging technique uses various layers of materials proven to enhance the flow of lymph after the manual lymph drainage.
- Compression Pump: This aides in fluid reabsorption during and after treatments.
- Education: The patient is frequently advised regarding exercise, skin care, hygiene, and precautions. All of these comprise self management and preventative measures to diminish reoccurrence of lymphedema.
- Fitting of a Compression Garmet: This maintains the results of fluid loss after treatments have concluded.
Lymphedema Management Leduc Method
Professor Albert Leduc is a Doctor of Physical Education and Licensed Physical Therpapist at the University of Brussels, Belgium. He began to develop the scientific and research-based methods of treatment for lymphedema in the early 1970's. All treatment methods have been proven effective by thorough testing and are submitted to continual examination to evolve with new knowledge and technology.
The Physical and Occupational Therapists providing the treatment here at Bellefontaine Physical Therapy are certified in Lymphedema Management-Leduc Method.