Lymphedema is a condition that produces fluid buildup in your arms, legs, breasts, head or neck. This causes swelling that can become painful and limit your ability to move around freely. Even though lymphedema is a lifelong condition, we can manage your symptoms with treatments like physical therapy.
Going with the flow to treat lymphedema
The lymphatic system is part of the body's circulatory system. Think of it like a water treatment plant — fluids that contain toxins, waste and excess water drain into 600–700 nodes throughout your body, where it's then processed, filtered and recirculated.
When that system becomes blocked, and the fluid builds up, conditions like lymphedema occur.
Unfortunately, there isn't a cure for lymphedema yet. But you can count on us to help you keep pain and swelling under control so you can enjoy a higher quality of life.
There are 2 kinds of lymphedema: primary and secondary. The main difference between the 2 types is what causes the lymphedema.
Primary lymphedema, also known as congenital lymphedema, can be an inherited condition from birth or develop during puberty or adulthood. The cause of primary lymphedema is unknown.
Secondary lymphedema is the more common form of lymphedema. It’s caused by a disruption to the lymphatic system through factors like:
In particular, breast cancer survivors are at a higher risk for developing lymphedema, especially if they've had lymph nodes removed. That's why it's important to stay on top of your breast health, even years after you've been declared cancer free.
The most common and easy-to-spot lymphedema symptom is swelling. Lymphedema is easier to treat when detected early on, so it's important to talk with your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Arms, legs or other areas of the body feeling uncomfortably heavy or "full"
- Clothing or jewelry fitting tightly
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Tight and inflexible joints
Lymphedema is a lifelong disease, but that doesn't mean you have to deal with a lifetime of pain and discomfort. We can help manage swelling caused by lymphedema with physical therapy.
With the right exercises and other treatment methods, we can improve how you move and perform daily tasks. Our team of physical and occupational therapists uses Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) as the foundation lymphedema treatment path. CDT includes:
- Compression bandaging and clothing
- Manual lymphatic drainage
- Skin and nail care
The most important part of treating lymphedema starts with knowledge. You can feel confident knowing we'll provide information and resources to help you manage lymphedema comfortably from home.