At OC Sports & Rehab, we specialize in the treatment of lymphedema. For both our lymphatic patients as well as other patients in our facility, there is a lot of curiosity surrounding the condition and not much public awareness or education about it. Even though lymphedema affects more than 5 million Americans, most of the general public knows nothing about it. Lymphedema quite literally means swelling caused by a dysfunction of the lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is the system in your body made up of a network of nodes and vessels that transport lymph, a fluid made up of cellular waste, such as dead cells and proteins. A healthy lymphatic system transports and filters this fluid appropriately. An unhealthy lymphatic system creates fluid build up, causes swelling, and can create or a world of trouble.
The main symptom of lymphedema is swelling in the extremities. This can occur in one single leg or arm, an arm and leg on the same side, or both legs. Many people first notice the swelling when their clothes, shoes, or jewelry fits more tightly on one side. Lymphedema can be inherited or acquired, depending on the type. Lymphedema can develop as a result of surgery, radiation, infection or trauma. The most common causes of lymphedema include a family history of the condition, removal of lymph nodes or treatment with radiation as part of cancer treatment, recurrent cellulitis (a bacterial inflammatory infection of the skin), chronic venous insufficiency or other long-term problems with circulation in the veins, and obesity.
There are a few ways lymphedema can be treated. It should also be stressed that the treatment of lymphedema is for maintenance of the condition only. There is no cure. That said, one of the most fundamental treatments for the condition is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), a special type of massage meant to mimic the pumping of lymph through the body. Another common tool is compression garments to keep an appropriate amount of pressure on the system to help with circulation. Your doctor may also prescribe specific exercises designed to target the muscles that assist in pumping lymphatic fluid around the body. In recent years, the use of pneumatic compression pumps have been an astoundingly effective form of treatment, especially when used in conjunction with the other forms of treatment mentioned. Another important aspect of treatment is good hygiene, proper skin care, and a healthy diet. Again, a proper diagnosis is vital to know how to treat and keep the condition under control.
If you or a loved one have noticed abnormal swelling in the extremities, any changes in the texture or color of the skin or any cramping or heaviness in the extremities, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If diagnosed early, treatment can be completely manageable. Your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who specializes in the treatment of the condition, like the ones here at OC Sports! We have cutting-edge research published with Mission Hospital and boast a 92% success rate. We use a multi-dimensional approach, utilizing several forms of treatment to decrease your swelling and symptoms as much as possible. We are here to support you and your family members, and provide our patients with the best care possible. We want to see our patients get better, and get back to doing the activities they enjoy. Check out our website to learn more about our highly specialized treatment of lymphedema, in addition to the other services we offer. You can also read the bios of our wonderfully educated therapists, assistants, and aides who will ensure your time at our facility is as pleasant and effective as possible. Call our front desk to schedule an appointment, and start your treatment today!
Cary Costa, PT