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Lymphedema Management

Lymphedema is swelling of a body part(s), most often an extremity. It is a treatable condition that affects 1 in every 100 people.

Causes of Lymphedema

Lymphedema is caused by any obstacle to the normal function of the lymphatic system. Such obstacles are usually the result of:

  • Absence of properly functioning lymph vessels or nodes, due to surgical excision of some or all lymph nodes in an area.
  • Blockage in the lymphatic system, due to scarring or persistent swelling in any area of the body.
  • Inability of the lymphatic system to remove sufficient waste in a timely manner.

Lymphedema is categorized as either primary or secondary.

Primary lymphedema is a rare inherited condition in which lymph nodes and lymph vessels are absent or abnormal.

Secondary lymphedema is usually caused when the lymphatic system is blocked and may be caused by infection, cancer or scar tissue.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

Lymphedema begins as a soft, fluid-filled swelling anywhere on the body but usually in the arms or legs. The affected area may also become inflamed.
The patient may experience increased pain, heaviness and/or diminished range of motion in the affected limb as well as increased difficulty performing normal activities.

Who Can Develop Lymphedema?

Anyone can be affected by lymphedema, regardless of age, sex or race.

Treatment Options

A specific program is tailored to the needs of each patient. Treatments may include:

  • Manual lymphatic drainage treatment (MLD), a light, rerouting massage.
  • Medical compression bandaging.
  • Special exercises to increase lymphatic drainage.
  • Skin care and precautionary advice.
  • Advice on modification of daily living activities and lifestyle adaptations.
  • Pneumatic pump, if necessary.
  • Patient education about controlling lymphedema.

How to Refer

A physician referral is required for inpatient and outpatient treatment. For more information on our programs and services, please contact our department to speak with one of our therapists.

All occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are licensed by the New Jersey State Occupational Therapy Advisory Council and certified by the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy.

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