Fort Memorial Hospital
611 Sherman Avenue East
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
(920) 568-5000 | La linea de mensajes: (920) 568-5001

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Lymphedema and Related Disorders

When the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, protein-rich fluid gathers in the soft tissues causing swelling in various parts of the body. This can result from the system being overloaded, damaged, or defective. This condition can occur when the lymph system is disrupted by surgery, injury, or radiation therapy, or having scar tissue. Lymphedema can develop immediately after surgery or years later. It can be uncomfortable and may increase the risk for infection in the affected area and affect your overall quality of life.

Lymphedema Symptoms

Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include the following:

  • Feeling of heaviness or slight discomfort or change in shape (increased size) in face, arms, or legs
  • Decreased flexibility and mobility, or inability to take care of yourself
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Excessive swelling related to or following radiation treatment or recent surgery
  • Open wounds that won’t heal

Treatment of Lymphedema

Lymphedema is effectively treated by qualified lymphedema therapists who develop a specialized treatment plan for you. Treatment may include:

  • Compression bandaging to help reduce swelling
  • Manual lymph drainage to reduce swelling and to empty, reroute, and decompress the obstructed lymph vessels
  • The use of a specialized compression garment for long term management of symptoms. It’s important to note that you need to be measured by a certified fitter to receive correct garments.
  • A home program, which may include exercises, bandaging, and/or self-massage
  • Education about skin care which is important for preventing further issues

If you experience difficulty applying a compression garment, a therapist can demonstrate and teach you how to use adaptive equipment.

Why treat Lymphedema?

If untreated, lymphedema may lead to:

  • Higher risk of infection in the affected area
  • Cellulitis
  • Hardening of skin
  • Aching and heaviness in the affected area
  • Interference with normal activities
  • Development of wounds

Most of all, treatment may help you maintain your independence. Although it may never go away completely, there are ways to manage it, and our therapists will teach you how to manage your condition.