Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissue that causes swelling in the arms, legs, or other parts of the body such as trunk, breast, or neck. Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema is a congenital abnormality and can show at birth, puberty, or menopause. Some primary lymphedema is hereditary and can affect several limbs.
Secondary lymphedema is characterized by identifiable causes and is often seen after surgical dissection of lymph nodes for breast, gynaecological, prostate, or melanoma cancers, often combined with radiation. Secondary lymphedema may also develop due to surgery unrelated to cancer and other causes such as trauma, infections, venous/lymphatic insufficiency, or filariasis (a parasitic disease seen primarily in underdeveloped countries).
Treatment for lymphedema consists of teaching about lymphedema, the precautions to reduce the risk of infection or swelling, posturing, exercise, skin care and diet. Treatment also includes measurement of the limbs, Manual Therapy for lymphedema (a very specific massage to reroute fluid from an affected area to a non-affected area that is provided daily if possible to reduce volume, pain and discomfort), compression wrapping, and teaching the simple home program of self-wrapping and self-drainage. Compression wrapping is provided to reduce volume, and once the volume is stabilized a compression garment is required to control this volume. This garment is applied in the morning, removed for the night and replaced on a regular basis to control volume. As lymphedema is a chronic condition, there is follow-up and ongoing treatment as required at the request of the client.
Lymphedema Association of Manitoba
Canadian Lymphedema Framework
Vodder Method of Lymphedema Therapy
If you have any concerns or questions please contact your physician.