Lymphedema is the swelling of a body part, typically an arm or leg, due to the accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the subcutaneous tissues (under the skin). If left undiagnosed or untreated, lymphedema can result in infection, pain, deformity and loss of function.
Sometimes the cause of lymphedema is from lymph node removal during cancer treatments. Other times, it can be more difficult to determine. The condition may be due to poor circulation, obesity or an injury to a body part. Some people are born with it or can they develop it at an early age.
Two years ago, Kelley first noticed significant swelling and redness in her left leg. Doctors initially treated her with antibiotics, fluid pills and checked her for blood clots. Fortunately, she didn’t have a blood clot and the infection she developed cleared up, but the mysterious painful swelling remained.
Over time, her skin darkened and became hard and tender – common changes that can occur when skin remains stretched from fluid.
Fortunately, Kelley found a doctor who accurately diagnosed her with lymphedema. She was referred to Woman’s Lymphedema Program. Kelley said, “the program helped me to understand what I’m dealing with and how to keep it under control.” She says her experience at Woman’s has been “tremendous” and she describes the therapists as “very helpful, very friendly, caring and loving.”
While there is no cure for lymphedema, it can be reduced with proper treatment and patients can learn to manage their symptoms.
Treatment usually consists of a specialized type of massage called manual lymphatic drainage used in conjunction with compression bandaging and exercise. Eventually, patients are fitted with compression garments which further help to manage the condition.
Learn more about Woman’s Lymphedema Program or call 225-924-8450.