Lymphedema is a condition of localized fluid retention caused by a compromised lymphatic system. The lymphatic system collects and filters the interstitial fluid of the body. The dangers involved with lymphedema are the constant risk of developing an uncontrolled infection in the affected limb.
Lymphedema is often an inherited condition but can also be caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels. It is most commonly seen after lymph node dissection, surgery and/or radiation therapy, in which damage to the lymphatic system is caused during the treatment of cancer. Lymphedema may also be associated with accidents or certain diseases or problems that may inhibit the lymphatic system from functioning properly.
The most common treatments for lymphedema are Complete Decongestive Therapy and Sequential Gradient Pump Therapy.
Complete Decongestive Therapy
Complete Decongestive Therapy consists of manual drainage, compression bandaging, exercise, and skin care. Once the lymphedema is reduced, patient participation and cooperation are required for ongoing care, along with the use of compression garments to further reduce the swelling.
Sequential Gradient Pump Therapy
Sequential Gradient Pump Therapy utilizes a 12 chambered pneumatic sleeve with overlapping cells, to gently move the lymph fluid. Patients may often receive treatment on a pump for 10-15 minutes before a manual drainage session to help break up fibrotic tissue. By softening or breaking up the fibrosis, the manual drainage can be even more effective with the given treatment.
The manual drainage component of treatment consists of gentle, rhythmic massaging of the skin to stimulate the flow of lymph and its return to the blood circulation system. In the blood's passage through the kidneys, the excess fluid is filtered out and eliminated from the body through urination. The treatment is very comfortable and non-aggressive.