Though not a most talked about disease, lymphedema is probably more common than you think. It can be inherited, or it may occur as the result of disease, injury, surgery, radiation, or infection.
Lymphedema is caused by damage to the vessels which carry fluid throughout the body’s lymphatic system, typically resulting in swelling of the arm or leg. Symptoms of lymphedema may not occur until many years after lymph vessels have been damaged and may include aching, weakness, redness, heaviness, or tightness in the affected limb(s), a decrease in flexibility in a wrist or ankle, and tight-fitting rings or shoes.
Although lymphedema cannot be cured, its symptoms can be managed. Albemarle Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services department offers a lymphedema program specifically tailored to help each patient live more comfortably with the disease and improve their quality of life through various treatments, including:
- Massage Therapy — Manipulation of soft tissue to help move lymph fluid out of the swollen area and into an area with working lymph vessels
- Exercise — Programs include assisted light exercise which helps the lymph vessels move fluid out of the affected arm or leg to decrease swelling
- Bandaging — Use of special wraps to keep fluid from returning to a swollen limb
- Compression Stockings or Sleeves — Special fabrics that use a controlled amount of pressure on the affected area(s) to help move lymph fluid through the area and keep it from building up again
- Skin Care — Attention to skin and nail care can help prevent infections
- Special Diets — In addition to overall nutrition, diets leading to weight loss can help increase mobility of the affected limb(s)
If you suffer from lymphedema, please ask your physician if you might benefit from lymphedema therapy. For more information, call our Rehabilitation Department at (252) 384-4632.