Lymphedema can affect people of all ages and if left untreated, can progressively worsen. Lymphedema is an abnormality of the lymphatic vessels resulting in an accumulation of fluid leading to chronic swelling. This type of edema occurs when the amount of lymph fluid in a person’s arm or leg exceeds the body’s ability to remove it, and the fluid then collects in the tissues of the limb. Our trained therapists provide treatments for this condition on an out-patient basis at Mercer Health.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

Symptoms of lymphedema include swelling in the arms, legs and other body parts; recurrent infections; a feeling of heaviness, and sometimes pain and/or tightness; and leaking of lymph fluid. The amount of swelling may fluctuate at different times.

Causes of Lymphedema

Lymphedema occurs when the lymph system is damaged or blocked. Fluid builds up in soft body tissues and causes swelling. Lymphedema usually affects an arm or leg, but it can also affect other parts of the body, and is often a permanent condition that can cause long-term physical, psychological, and social problems for patients if not treated or managed.  

Treatment components include:

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

A gentle massage technique utilized to stimulate the lymphatic vessels and channel the excess lymph fluid towards healthy lymph nodes.

Compression Bandaging

Short stretch compression bandages are used to wrap the affected limb to prevent re-accumulation of lymph fluid. Once the size of the affected body part has stabilized, compression garments are acquired.

Therapeutic Exercise

Gentle exercise is utilized to improve lymphatic flow and improve the client’s functional mobility of the affected limb.

Patient/Family Education

Patients and/or families are instructed in self bandaging and self massage techniques. They are also educated on appropriate skin and nail care.