What is Lymphedema Therapy?
Lymphedema is a swelling of a body part, most often the arm or leg, caused by an
accumulation of lymph fluid. It can also occur in the face, neck, abdomen and lungs. Although it is a chronic disease, it can usually be brought under control by good care and attention to certain basic rules. People with lymphedema can lead normal and active lifestyles. Lymphedema most often causes a feeling of heaviness, swollen body part, slight discomfort, and repeated episodes of infection (cellulitis and lymphangitis).
Types Of Lymphedema
Primary cases are those that occur without any obvious cause. They may be present at birth, at adolescence, or develop after age 35. Some cases are familial as well as congenital. Primary lymphedema is more common in females and occurs more often in the lower extremities.
An injury, scarring, or excision of the lymph nodes causes secondary lymphedema. This usually occurs as a result of previous radiation and/or surgery of lymph nodes in the area near your cancer.
Complete Lymphedema Management
Our therapists use the Complete Decongestive Therapy management strategy. It includes the following elements:
Evaluation is provided by a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.
Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a specialized massage technique, which improves the activity and function of the lymph vessels. MLD helps to re-route the lymph flow around the blocked areas into more centrally located lymph vessels that drain into the venous system.
Compression Therapy Bandaging increases the tissue pressure and is applied between treatments to prevent re-accumulation of evacuated lymph fluid.
Lymphatic Exercises or decongestive exercises are performed while wearing decongestive bandages to aid in further reduction of the swollen extremity.
Patient Education is the aspect that provides each patient with the knowledge of how to manage his or her lymphedema.
Compression Garments are an important way
to manage symptoms of lymphedema as a transition to independent management and
are less bulky than lymphedema wraps.
Aquatic Therapy, which uses the therapeutic properties of water to allow comfortable exercise and swelling reduction, is a recent addition to the lymphedema management strategies. Aquatic therapy is an option at our facility for patients
who are comfortable in this environment.
Our physical therapists have special training, experience and certification from The Academy of Lymphatic Studies. In cooperation with referring physicians, therapists use a medically proven approach called Combined or Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT). This treatment is designed to promote the flow of lymph fluid and reduce swelling.
Lymphedema services are available at the following Sentara Therapy Center locations:
Hilltop - Virginia Beach
BelleHarbour - Suffolk
Port Warwick - Newport News
Princess Anne - Virginia Beach
St. Lukes - Carrollton