Lymph fluid forms in your body’s tissues. It contains proteins and cellular wastes. Lymph vessels absorb and transport this fluid to your lymph nodes. They then filter impurities and move the fluid to veins in your neck.
There the lymph joins the blood on its way to the heart and is usually removed from your body. When your lymphatic system is not working properly, the fluid moves slower. This floods tissues and causes swelling.
Lymphedema can be classified as primary or secondary lymphedema.
- Primary lymphedema has no obvious cause and may occur at birth or through life. It usually affects the legs and is more common in women.
- Secondary lymphedema is best known as a side effect of cancer treatment. It can develop after surgery, severe trauma, infection or venous disease. This condition can start at the time of illness or trauma, or it can develop years later.
Lymphedema can occur in your arm, leg, groin, chest, head, neck or armpit area. Symptoms can include:
- Aching or pain
- A feeling of fullness or heaviness
- Skin that feels stiff or tight
- Skin that looks red
- Trouble bending or moving one of your joints
If you have advanced lymphedema, you may notice:
- Lymph leakage
- Repeated infections
- Slow-healing wounds
If you notice these signs, talk to your provider and request a referral to the Enloe Lymphedema Therapy Clinic. Our trusted caregivers are ready to help.
Our therapists use complete decongestive therapy, the leading technique for lymphedema management. This includes:
- Manual lymph drainage, gentle massage that helps improve your weakened lymphatic system
- Compression therapy, the use of bandages and sleeves, to reduce and prevent swelling
- Skin care and hygiene to reduce the risk of infection
- Myofascial release, pressure to your connective tissue to reduce pain and improve mobility
- Decongestive and flexibility exercise to improve lymph drainage