Lymphedema is a swelling that typically occurs in the upper or lower extremities, due to an excessive buildup of protein rich lymphatic fluid just under the skin. Your lymphatic system is part of your circulatory system, and it is a network of vessels that carry lymph fluid towards the heart. The lymphatic system is an essential part of your immune and circulatory systems.
When a blockage happens in your lymphatic system, swelling of your arms or legs, face, trunk, abdomen, or genital area may occur as the fluid is not able to drain properly. Improper drainage results in a build-up of the lymph fluid in the region, which can generate adverse health risks. The protein in the protein rich lymphatic fluid attracts bacteria, so this accumulation of fluid can lead to an infection known as cellulitis if it is allowed to continue. If you are suffering from lymphedema, contact ReQuest Physical Therapy today to find relief!
How do I know if I have lymphedema ?
There are two types of lymphedema: primary lymphedema, meaning it occurs on its own, and secondary lymphedema, meaning it occurs as a result of an alternative disease or condition. Primary lymphedema results from a developmental abnormality of the lymphatic system – congenital or hereditary. Secondary lymphedema results from an injury to the lymphatic system.
Secondary lymphedema is much more common. In the developed world it frequently results from treatment for cancer which involves removal and/or radiation of lymph nodes. Breast cancer survivors are particularly prone to this in the arm on the same side as the affected breast. The lymphedema can occur immediately after treatment or 5, 10, or 20 years later. It occurs whenever the lymphatic system becomes overwhelmed and the axillary “pumps” burn out.
Patients usually first notice the swelling when a ring or wrist watch they frequently wear becomes too tight – or one sleeve feels tighter than the other. This is the time to call ReQuest for a lymphedema assessment.
Your doctor may send you to ReQuest Physical Therapy in Gainesville, FL for education about strategies for avoiding lymphedema. If you do not have symptoms this will involve about 2-4 sessions of discussion about lymphedema and its prevention. Measurements will be taken so that there is a record of the measurements that are normal for you.
How is lymphedema treated ?
At ReQuest we only treat upper extremity (arm) lymphedema. The most common treatment is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). This is a combination of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD – a special type of massage) and compression wrapping of the entire arm. The treatment usually takes place 5 days a week for 2 weeks – then the patient transitions to a home program where self MLD and wrapping is performed (the bandages are worn while sleeping) and a Class 2 compression sleeve is worn during the day. Lymphedema does not go away. The symptoms can be managed and the patient must continue the home program indefinitely.
ReQuest Physical Therapy in Gainesville, FL has the bandages for wrapping in stock which can be purchased. We do not order compression sleeves. Many people get these from Especially for Women in the Oaks Mall Plaza. Some insurance companies require you to use their provider for them to pay for the sleeve. Others, such as Medicare, do not pay for sleeves at all.
All evaluations and treatments take place in a private room where just you (and a friend or family member, if you wish) can interact with your therapist.
Contact our Gainesville & Newberry, FL physical therapy office today if you are dealing with upper extremity lymphedema and need some relief. ReQuest Physical Therapy will help reduce your lymphedema symptoms and improve your daily life. Your pain-free movement starts here!
Wrapping will happen toward the end of the week. Please bring a caregiver if needed. For your convenience, they will be taught how to wrap.
Yes. Every patient is treated with respect and privacy in the privilege of their own room.
Unfortunately, this is not likely. You will need to pay upfront for bandages used. Medicare will not cover supply costs. Private insurance companies may reimburse you; we can provide a receipt for you to submit.