Each week, a YouTube video is posted to educate about lymphedema & related subjects. Visit “The Swelling Savvy” on YouTube. You can also check out the “Learn” tab on our website for other resources.
What is Lymphedema?
Imagine two lanes being removed from a major city highway. Traffic remains the same but cars will begin to back up. Or suppose lanes are intact but there’s a Cowboy’s game & an overflow of traffic. In either scenario, the roads can’t handle the demand of traffic. Removing or disrupting the lymphatics causes a similar problem with fluid backing up. When this happens, a cascade of events begins to occur. Protein-rich fluid accumulates. Chronic inflammation leads to hardening of tissue, increased risk for Cellulitis infections, tissue changes (color change, papules forming, fluid seeping out, etc.). This is Lymphedema.
In “Lymph-edema,” there is edema (swelling) involving the lymphatic system. Sometimes it is because the lymphatic system is impaired (intrinsically, called Primary Lymphedema; or by injury, called Secondary Lymphedema described above). True lymphedema is a chronic disease & compression must be worn for life in most cases. There are a variety of conditions that can lead to Secondary Lymphedema such as:
- Cancer (lymph node removal &/or radiation treatment, tumors)
- Trauma (surgery, scarring, disruption of lymphatic vessels)
- Vascular Impairment (Chronic Venous Insufficiency, vein harvesting)
- Poor mobility & dependent positioning (i.e. stroke or spinal cord injuries)
- Lipedema, Obesity
- Infections (such as Erysipelas – or what some refer to as “Cellulitis”)
How is Lymphedema Treated?
Lymphedema is treated by a therapist or other medical professional who is certified to do what is called Complete Decongestive Therapy (an approach involving 5 components: Manual Lymph Drainage massage, Compression Bandaging using short-stretch bandages, Exercise, Skin Care & Self-Care training which includes long-term compression garments.). Sessions take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on a patient’s presentation & the number of extremities involved. On average, a person is seen 3x/week for 4 weeks but this may vary depending on a patient’s need.
Where do I find a qualified therapist?
According to the Lymphology Association of North America, training schools providing certification should consist of a minimum of 135 hours of instruction with 1/3 of that time being devoted to anatomy & physiology of the lymphatic system & 2/3 being hands-on training in order for therapists to be qualified to provide Complete Decongestive Therapy. To find a certified therapist, you can visit the website of the training schools below. You can also search the Lymphology Association of North America’s therapist directory to find additionally certified LANA therapists.
- Klose Training (http://klosetraining.com/)
- The Vodder School (http://www.vodderschool.com/)
- Norton School of Lymphatics (http://www.nortonschool.com/)
- Academy of Lymphatic Studies (http://www.acols.com/)
- Casley-Smith (http://www.casley-smith-lymphedema-courses.org/index.html)
- Lymphology Association of North America (http://www.clt-lana.org/index.html)