Lymphedema is a type of swelling that can occur anywhere in your body. Common locations are arms, legs, breast, or chest due to the buildup of fluid in the tissues. This swelling can occur anytime there is a blockage of the lymphatic system. This may happen after an injury, surgery, radiation therapy and/or infection. If you have this condition, you will need to manage it for the rest of your life.
The Unity Point Health-Meriter lymphedema team is comprised of physical therapists and occupational therapists who have received specialty training in the evaluation, treatment, and management of lymphedema and venous edema. Your lymphedema therapist will work with you to create the best treatment program for you, no matter the reason for your lymphedema. The treatment program will take into consideration your current activity level, other health conditions you may have, and any other factors affecting your lymphedema.
Are you concerned you might have lymphedema? If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms below contact your doctor to see if you might be appropriate for lymphedema therapy services:
- Long lasting swelling
- An unusual feeling of fullness or pressure that does not go away (tightness of clothing rings, watches, etc.)
- A feeling of unusual heat in the area of swelling
- An unusual achiness in the area of swelling
- Skin hardening
- Your skin leaves in indent when pressure is applied
To set-up an appointment with either a physical therapist or occupational therapist for lymphedema treatment you will need to obtain a therapy referral from your doctor.
On Your First Visit
The therapist will perform an evaluation of your swelling. The therapist will then discuss treatment options and plan of care with you.
To properly evaluate your swelling and skin, please bring or wear the following clothing:
- For swelling of the arms: A tank top or sleeveless shirt
- For swelling of the legs: Shorts or pants which easily roll up to your thighs
If you do not have the above clothing the therapist will make accommodations as needed to properly assess your swelling.
Treatment of lymphedema typically includes the following which will be explained in further detail at your initial therapy session:
- Manual lymphatic drainage
- Medical compressive bandaging
- Discharge into a compression garment
Treatment duration varies depending on the severity of swelling and will be discussed further at your first visit.
Patient/Family Education Materials
Further educational materials will be provided at your initial evaluation.