Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissue that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs, and occasionally in other parts of the body. Lymphedema can develop when lymphatic vessels are missing, impaired, removed or damaged.
When the impairment becomes so great that the fluid exceeds the lymphatic transport capacity, an abnormal amount of protein-rich fluid collects in the tissues of the affected area. Left untreated, this stagnant, protein-rich fluid reduces oxygen availability in the affected area, interferes with wound healing, and provides a culture medium for bacteria that can result in infection.
Symptoms of Lymphedema
Lymphedema can develop in any part of the body or limbs. Signs or symptoms to watch for include:
- A full sensation in the limb
- Skin feeling tight
- Decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle
- Difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area
- Ring/wristwatch/bracelet tightness
If you notice persistent swelling, it is very important that you seek immediate medical advice. Early diagnosis and treatment improves both the prognosis and the condition.
Treatment for Lymphedema
The occupational therapy staff members at Prairie Lakes Healthcare System are specially trained and certified in Manual Lymph Drainage and Complete Decongestive Therapy techniques. They will develop an individualized treatment plan to aid in the reduction of lymphedema in the area, assist in obtaining supportive garments and instruct you how to manage this illness better. It is recommended that if lymphedema symptoms occur to contact your physician, who will help you determine if rehabilitation services are necessary.
For further information or to make an appointment, please call 605-882-7700.