Lymphedema / Post Oncological

Focusing On Personalized Care For You.

WE CAN HELP YOU WITH SWELLING!

5 COMMON CAUSES OF CHRONIC SWELLING

SURGERY, ESPECIALLY REMOVAL OF LYMPH NODES OR DAMAGE TO THE LYMPH SYSTEM FROM RADIATION

INJURY TO THE LYMPH SYSTEM FROM SURGERY OR AN ACCIDENT

UNMANAGED VEIN PROBLEMS THAT EVENTUALLY CAUSE SECONDARY DAMAGE TO THE LYMPH SYSTEM

A BLOOD CLOT

IT MAY ALSO OCCUR AT BIRTH FROM MALFORMATION OF THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM AND MAY NOT DISPLAY SYMPTOMS UNTIL LATER IN LIFE

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Amanda Cranston | Cornerstone Physical Therapy

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What is the Lymphatic System?

It is a series of vessels that work in conjunction with the venous system to return fluid back to the heart.

What is Lymphedema?

A type of chronic swelling that is caused by the overload of the lymphatic system. It may affect the face, arm(s), breast(s), leg(s), torso, or genitals

What are the Stages of Lymphedema?

  • Stage 0- Latency Stage: Swelling is not yet present, but the lymph system is functioning with a decreased capacity. This is the post-surgical patient that has had lymph nodes, removed but does not display any current swelling. There is no definite period of time for this stage to last. It could be months or years.
  • Stage 1- Mild Stage: Swelling has started into the extremity or trunk, but improves with limb elevation or overnight.
  • Stage 2- Moderate Stage: Swelling is now consistently present. Elevation or sleeping overnight no longer improves the size of the limb.
  • Stage 3- Advances Stage: Elephantitis. The skin has thickened, the swelling becomes fibrotic in nature, growth may occur on the skin, and extensive scarring may occur.

What are my treatment options?

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is a well-rounded approach that is broken into two phases. The first phase is called the “Decongestion Phase”. This is when the size of the limb is being reduced in size. Once the limb has reached its goal, the maintenance phase is started. Currently, this condition is non-curable and therefore it must be maintained with a well-balance program developed individually for each patient.

Phase One Includes:

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD): A specific hands-on technique used to stimulate lymphatic vessels and decrease swelling.
  • Compression Bandaging: provides gradient support to assist with decreased swelling.
  • Therapeutic Exercise: an individualized exercise program is created to utilize the muscular system along with the compression bandaging to decrease swelling.
  • Patient Education and Meticulous Skin Care

Phase Two Includes

  • Maintenance Phase: when the size of the limb has reached its goal the patient is progressed to phase two.
  • Compression Garments: the patient is measured and fit for functional garments to be worn daily.
  • Self Manual Lymphatic Drainage/ Compression Pump: Used to assist with improved lymphatic function long term
  • How do I know if I should come in for treatment?
  • If you have had damage, injury, or surgery in and around an area that could have affected a lymph node (s), start to screen your limb. If you notice:
    • Heaviness or tingling in your limb
    • Notice pitting (an indentation is left when you press your skin)
    • The size of one limb looks larger than the other
  • These are signs that lymphedema could be starting. In the state of NC Physical and Occupational Therapists have direct access, meaning you can come in for an evaluation without a referral and get the opinion of our lymphedema therapist to determine if treatment is right for you. Your therapist will be in communication with any provider you release your records in order to create a team approach to short and long-term management.
  • Does early treatment make a difference?

    • Achieve better results in limb decongestion in fewer visits
      • This means financially it is also easier on the patient with fewer co-pays associated with visits
    • To decrease the likelihood of common setbacks, which may include cellulitis. This is an infection of the skin that is treated with antibiotics but can become serious and result in a hospital stay.

    Is lymphedema completely preventable?

    • Depending on the amount of damage that occurs to the lymphatic system. The onset of lymphedema is not always preventable.

    Are there things I can do to decrease my chance of developing lymphedema?

    • Proper skin care: wash your skin with a gentle soap that is non-abrasive. Make sure to hydrate your skin daily with a lotion that is hydrating. This means lotion that does not have perfumes or smells associated with it.
    • Proper nail care: be careful to not nick cuticles during nail care.
    • No needle sticks on the affected side: meaning injections, blood draws, etc
    • No blood pressure measurements: on the affected side
    • Avoid tight-fitting clothing or items that may cause a tourniquet: around the limb (meaning tight-fitting socks, tight bracelets, heart rate monitors around the arm, etc.)
    • Proper wound care: if you develop a cut or scrape, ensure to dress it and care for it appropriately. An infection of a cut could lead to an exacerbation of lymphedema.
    • When flying in an airplane: wear a compression garment(s) proactively. The change in the air pressure may result in the development of swelling.






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