Helping patient manage lymphedema symptoms
Southwest General’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Department
offers a four- to eight-week Lymphedema Treatment Program designed to
help patients manage the symptoms of lymphedema.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the abnormal accumulation of protein-rich lymphatic fluid
that causes swelling (edema) primarily in the arms, hands, chest or legs,
but that can affect any part of the body. It occurs when the normal drainage
pattern of the lymph nodes is compromised. Lymphedema may be inherited
or may be the result of surgery or trauma.
Patients who have taken part in the Lymphedema Treatment Program at Southwest
General have experienced benefits ranging from reduced swelling and pain
to improved skin appearance. A physician referral is required to begin
Patients at Risk
Patients with a history of any of the following may be at risk for developing
- Breast cancer surgery
- Cancer of the lymph nodes
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Abdominal surgery
- Joint replacements
- Radiation therapy
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Vascular surgery
- Traumatic injuries
- Horizontal incisions
Symptoms generally include:
- A feeling of fullness or tightness in the arm or leg
- Aching or pain in the arm or leg
- Skin tightness
- Decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle
- Weakness in the affected arm or leg
- Difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area
- Swelling in the hand (may be evidenced by rings, bracelets or watches that
no longer fit)
- Weeping of the skin
Currently, there is no known cure for lymphedema, but there are a variety
of techniques to help manage the symptoms of lymphedema and make day-to-day
activities as fulfilling and rewarding as possible.
Helping Patients to Cope with the Symptoms of Lymphedema
Southwest General’s Lymphedema Treatment program is designed to teach
patients and family members how to manage the condition independently
at home. After an initial assessment, a specially trained lymphedema therapist
develops an individualized plan of care to help reduce fluid volume, increase
range of motion, and teach self massage and bandaging techniques.
Patients in Southwest General’s Lymphedema Treatment Program benefit
from a variety of state-of-the-art treatments, including:
Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
This technique uses a specific pattern of very slow, light and rhythmic
stretching of the skin to reduce swelling. It facilitates the re-absorption
of excess fluid into the lymph vessels and out of the affected area. MLD
techniques help to create alternate pathways for compromised vessels and
lymph nodes. Gentle and non-invasive, MLD also stimulates the parasympathetic
nervous system and produces a sense of relaxation.
Wearing a customized compression sleeve or elastic bandage may help to
prevent the accumulation of fluid. Initially, the lymphedema therapist
may apply bandages to reduce swelling and limb size following MLD. Patients
are educated on maintaining limb reduction with self-bandaging techniques.
Once the limb is significantly reduced, compression garments can be worn.
These garments must be replaced every six months.
Lymphedema management is an ongoing process. Each patient is taught a
unique andspecific program of self-care that includes skin care and hygiene,
prevention of infection, self-massage techniques, bandaging techniques
Exercise improves lymphatic flow, restores flexibility and increases range
What are the Benefits of Lymphedema Treatment?
Lymphedema treatment helps patients by providing:
- Reduced fluid volume
- Reduced swelling
- Improved limb appearance and skin integrity
- Increased range of motion and mobility of the affected area
- Decreased pain
- Reduced risk of infection
- Improved skin appearance
A physician referral is required for Lymphedema Treatment and most major
insurance providers cover lymphedema treatment.
We Look Forward to Helping You
To learn more about our Lymphedema Treatment Program or to schedule an
Lymphedema Treatment is available at:
LifeWorks of Southwest General
7390 Old Oak Blvd.
Middleburg Heights, OH 44130