Lymphedema is a condition that causes severe, painful swelling, usually in the arms and legs. It occurs when the body has trouble circulating lymph, a clear fluid that surrounds cells and contains cell waste. The poor circulation causes lymph to back up, which results in the swelling.
Various diseases and conditions cause lymphedema. Congestive heart failure, chronic venous insufficiency and cancer treatment are common triggers.
Left untreated, lymphedema can lead to serious complications that include bacterial infections of the skin and infection of the lymph vessels. The smallest injury to an arm or leg can be an entry point for infection, which can cause inflammation and compromise the healing of tissue and wounds.
Lymphedema cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Lymphedema therapy is one treatment that can help. Lake Regional occupational therapists provide this therapy, which uses a variety of techniques to improve lymph circulation.
- Manual lymph drainage uses gentle massage to draw fluid out of the tissues and back into the lymphatic system.
- Compression bandaging and garments wrap the affected limbs to support circulation.
- Pneumatic pumps use inflatable "sleeves" to stimulate the flow of fluid.
If you are interested in lymphedema therapy, talk with your doctor. A doctor's referral is required for this program.
In addition to lymphedema therapy, Lake Regional offers a free class to educate individuals who have lymphedema and those at risk for developing the condition. Topics include:
- What is lymphedema
- Who is at risk
- Stages of lymphedema
- Monitoring techniques
- Prevention techniques
- Treatment options
- When to see your doctor
Lymphedema 101 is offered the second Tuesday of every month from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Cancer Resource Center at Lake Regional Hospital. Participants can sign up by calling 573.302.2772. Registration is required.