March 1, 2010
Each year, on March 6, the National Lymphedema Network and the lymphedema community nationwide celebrate Lymphedema Awareness "D" Day. This special day is set aside for the specific purpose of honoring inspirational lymphedema patients who have contributed to the community or who have shown great courage in their struggle with disease. This year, staff at Fort HealthCare Wound & Edema Center wish to focus attention on Lymphedema itself-an often misunderstood disease.
The goal of National Lymphedema Awareness Day is to show the world that lymphedema is no longer a rare condition by honoring the many people living with it today, and the exceptional health care providers who, with dedication and support, have touched their lives and hearts.
Fort HealthCare’s staff at the Johnson Creek Wound & Edema Center are excited about lymphedema awareness and find it important to let those in our region who suffer with edema know that there is relief available. "I have the best job in the whole world. I get to give patients their lives back,” remarked LANA-certified lymphedema therapist Angie Adler, OT. “When I first see a lymphedema patient, they are experiencing difficulty just walking around their home, putting shoes on or fitting into their clothing. After just one session they often move and feel better."
To treat lymphedema, the therapists at the Wound & Edema Center use a variety of proven techniques including manual lymph drainage, compression garments and range-of-motion exercises. The outcome for most lymphedema patients is good, even though edema is a chronic disease. Swelling is manageable and often will improve over time.
Lymphedema therapists at the Wound & Edema Center are LANA-certified occupational therapists who are specially trained in the treatment of all edema related conditions. To learn more about lymphedema or the Wound & Edema Center, visit www.FortHealthCare.com/Wound.
What is lymphedema?
Lymphatic obstruction is a blockage of the lymph nodes — vessels that drain fluid from tissues throughout the body and allow immune cells to travel where they are needed. Lymphatic obstruction is also called lymphedema, which means swelling of the lymph passages. Lymph nodes may be enlarged for many reasons.
There are many causes of lymphatic obstruction, including:
• Infections with parasites such as filariasis
• Injury caused by trauma
• Radiation therapy
• Skin infections such as cellulitis (more common in obese patients)
In Western societies, lymphedema is often seen following a Mastectomy. When breast tissue is removed, the underarm lymph tissue is also removed, causing swelling in the arm. This causes lymphedema of the arm in ten to 15 percent of mastectomy patients. Cancer survivors often suffer residual effects due to the limited ability of the lymphatic drainage system in the arm which can be treated with manual lymph drainage. Rare forms of lymphedema that are present from birth (congenital) may result from problems in the development of the lymphatic vessels.
What does lymphedema look like?
• Persistent chronic swelling; especially of the arms or legs
• Swelling that does not resolve with elevation
• A feeling of heaviness or discomfort in extremities