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Lymphedema Treatment

What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling that happens when lymph can’t flow normally and builds up in the soft tissues. Lymphedema usually happens in parts of the body where lymph nodes have been removed or damaged by cancer treatment. Some genetic disorders can also cause secondary lymphedema. 


What Can Cause It?

What Are Some Symptoms?

Lymphedema can be caused by:

  • surgery that removes lymph nodes (called lymph node dissection)

  • radiation therapy to lymph nodes

  • cancer that spreads (metastasizes) to the lymph nodes

  • an infection or inflammation that damages lymph vessels

  • injury to the lymph nodes

  • Genetic disorders 

Symptoms can vary depending on how severe the lymphedema is. Symptoms of lymphedema include: 

  • swelling in an arm or leg, which may include the fingers or toes

  • feeling of fullness, puffiness or heaviness in the arm, leg or genital area

  • aching or burning feeling in the limb

  • tight or warm feeling in the skin of the arm, leg or genital area

  • trouble moving a joint in the arm or leg

  • hardening or thickening of the skin

  • feeling that jewellery or clothes are tight

How Is It Treated?

With early diagnosis, treatment and education can be very beneficial for management of lymphedema and lower your risk of it getting worse. In fact, with the help of a therapist, swelling can be halted and may even be reversed. 

The best treatment is decongestive lymphatic therapy from a certified lymphedema therapist. It can include the following:

  • Compression therapy to reduce and contain swelling

  • Lymphatic drainage (a special type of gentle massage) to improve lymph flow, direct fluid to other drainage pathways, and unblock or soften hard tissue

  •  Skin care education avoid infection

  •  Exercises to promote lymphatic function and flow

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