Lymphedema is abnormal swelling of a body part that occurs gradually over time. It occurs most commonly in the arms or legs. Causes of lymphedema include genetic factors, breast cancer complications, traumatic physical injuries, or surgery complications. If left untreated, lymphedema tends to get worse over time. In advanced cases, skin problems, infections, and loss of function in the extremity can happen.
A therapist who has had advanced training in the management of lymphedema will work with you to develop an individual program based on your medical history, needs and goals. The best treatment for lymphedema is called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). CDT consists of compression bandaging, manual lymph drainage, skincare, exercise and education for long term management of the disease.
Lymphedema will require life-long management. In most cases, bandaging can be replaced by stockings or a sleeve that you will continue to wear. You will be ready to manage your condition on your own when you have learned how to use compression, exercise and home programs to prevent the return of swelling in the extremity.