Physical Therapists may play a critical role in both the prevention using patient education and self monitoring, or in the recovery phase with treatment techniques. You will see a licensed Physical Therapist with specialized training in lymphedema management for your individualized care plan.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when lymphatic fluid accumulates in the soft tissue of the body. The fluids accumulate due to a restriction in the lymphatic vessels, and the lymph fluid cannot flow freely through the system. These obstructions may be a result of developmental problems, known as Primary Lymphedema, or from removal, damage or injury of the vessels or nodes, known as Secondary Lymphedema.
Symptoms of Primary Lymphedema may appear in infants and adolescents, while Secondary Lymphedema symptoms may be triggered over time. Mastectomy with axillary dissection for breast cancer is one of the most common triggers of lymphedema as the removal of breast and underarm lymph tissue disrupts the passage of lymphatic fluids through the axilla (armpit). Other factors triggering lymphedema may be skin infections (such as cellutitis), trauma, tumor growth, surgery involving removal or destruction of lymph vessels, or radiation therapy over lymphatic tissue.
Persistent increase in limb size, the arm or leg, is a characteristic of lymphedema and may be accompanied by aching, weakness, redness, heaviness, tightness, and decreased flexibility of the limb. Lymphedema is a manageable chronic disease that responds well to therapy intervention and patient education.
For more information on Lymphedema click here.
The Lymphedema Management Program
The Lymphedema Management Program at Houston Northwest Medical Center is committed to helping treat and manage the swelling and loss of function associated with lymphedema. The comprehensive lymphatic therapy program can be individualized based on your history and condition. Comprehensive lymphatic therapy consists of several elements to reduce lymphedema symptoms:
- Skin care prevention techniques
- Compression with bandaging and garments
- Manual lymph drainage
- Education and self-care instructions
Outpatient services in the Rehabilitative Services Department for lymphedema are available, by physician’s prescription, Monday through Friday. For more information about this program, please call the department at 281-440-2251.