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Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymph fluid in tissue due to missing or damaged lymph vessels and nodes. Swelling occurs in the affected areas, which are typically the arms and legs, but may also include the face, neck, abdomen and lungs.
There are two types of lymphedema: primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is often a congenital condition. Secondary lymphedema may develop after injury, surgery or radiation treatment. Lymphedema can range from mild to severe.
Signs and symptoms to watch for may include:
Changes in skin color and texture
Decreased flexibility in hands, wrists or ankles
Difficulty fitting into clothes or jewelry
Feeling of fullness or heaviness in the affected area
Persistent swelling, especially in an isolated area
Tightness or tingling in the skin around the affected area
Lymphedema therapy is generally most effective when the condition is treated early and it is critical that treatment be administered by health care professionals who are properly trained in decongestive physiotherapy. Decongestive physiotherapy includes
massage, bandaging, and education in skin care, diet and exercise.
Treatment may include manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), a process in which a trained practitioner uses massage techniques to stimulate the lymphatic vessels to move the lymph fluid. Compression bandages and garments are also worn to promote lymph fluid
flow and prevent the accumulation of fluid.
Exercise is another key component. Moving the joints and muscles stimulates the lymphatic system to continue to move the fluid out of the body. Finally, skin care may also be required. In some cases, swelling stretches the skin, increasing the risk of
a break in the skin.
Patients may then be at risk of developing infections or wounds. Proper skin care and bandaging can help prevent wounds and heal infections.
In the Rehabilitation Institute of Florida at Florida Medical Center, our licensed therapists have undergone extensive training to learn the anatomy and physiology of the lymphatic system. Whether you have primary lymphedema or have developed secondary
lymphedema as a result of injury, surgery, infection or disease, we can help.
For more information on our services and our lymphedema care, please contact us by calling (866) 747-5834.
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