Tuesday, August 5, 2014


By Cheryl Pierce, OT, CLT-LANA with HealthSouth Lakeshore

Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the interstitial tissue space that is caused by a number of reasons. Primary lymphedema is a condition that people are born with that develops either at birth or can show up later in life. Secondary lymphedema is caused by a disruption in the lymphatic system, commonly due to cancer, resulting in an extremity or area of the body to swell.

Lymphedema is treated through CDT (Complete Decongestive Therapy), which includes a number of treatment approaches such as lymphedema massage, known as manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), multi-layered compression bandaging, skin care and exercise. A patient will participate in CDT for 2-3 weeks to obtain edema reduction, and then be fit in an appropriate compression garment for daytime and possibly a nighttime garment as well. It is very important that the lymphedema patient also learns how to do self-massage and self-bandaging so that the patient can continue the CDT protocol long-term.

Lymphedema is a condition that can progressively worsen left untreated and cause other medical concerns such as infection, skin issues and orthopedic problems due to the weight of an extremity. It is important that a person with lymphedema seek treatment with a therapist that is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist and ideally LANA(Lymphology Association of North America) certified as well to ensure the most up-to-date treatment and knowledge for their lymphedema condition.

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