Lymphedema occurs when an abnormal amount of lymphatic fluid accumulates in tissue. Lymphedema can be present at birth, occur for various reasons later in life, or develop as a result of surgery, radiation, disease, infection or trauma. With early diagnosis and professional care, the effects of lymphedema can be managed and controlled.
Edward-Elmhurst Health's highly trained cccupational and physical therapists have advanced training and certification in the management of primary and secondary lymphedema. We also treat chronic edema, which can occur with medical diagnoses such as peripheral vascular disease, chronic heart failure, and following a joint surgery or fracture.
What causes lymphedema?
Lymphedema can be present at birth, occur for various reasons later in life, or develop as a result of surgery, radiation, disease, infection or trauma.
Lymphedema often occurs in breast cancer patients who had all or part of their breast and underarm lymph nodes removed. Patients who have had surgery for uterine cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma or melanoma are also at higher risk of lymphedema.
What is the goal of lymphedema therapy?
Our therapists complete a personalized, comprehensive treatment plan to help you manage and control your lymphedema and improve your quality of life by:
- Decreasing discomfort and heaviness associated with lymphedema/edema
- Improving mobility and function
- Improving tissue quality and health to prevent infection
- Providing education on how to independently manage lymphedema/edema
- Obtaining appropriate compression garments and devices
Who may benefit from lymphedema therapy?
Individuals with the following conditions may benefit from lymphedem therapy:
- Post-breast or cancer surgery with lymph node removal
- Post-radiation for cancer
- Chronic edema in arms and/or legs
- Edema during/following pregnancy
- Chronic edema that began at birth or in puberty
What does skilled lymphedema treatment entail?
The rehabilitation team at Edward-Elmhurst Health includes physical and occupational therapists who specialize in lymphedema management. They use their training and experience to help prevent, diagnose and manage lymphedema, control pain and swelling, and prevent infection.
Lymphedema therapy includes:
- Manual lymph drainage
- Compression therapy
- Decongestive exercises
- Self-manual lymph drainage
- Education in skin and nail care
Complete decongestive therapy
Many lymphedema patients experience long-term benefit from complete decongestive therapy (CDT). CDT is a safe, reliable and non-invasive treatment that consists of four components:
- Manual lymph drainage (MLD)
- Graduated compression garments
- Therapeutic exercises
- Skin care education
If you’re seeking lymphedema relief, we can help. Our specialists will provide you with one-on-one support and treatments tailored to your unique needs.
Learn more about lymphedema, its causes and treatment at the National Lymphedema Network.