A person may be born with a genetic condition causing lymphedema or an impaired lymphatic system that causes swelling later.
A person may develop lymphedema as a result of trauma or chronic edema such as:
- Cancer, lymph node removal and/or radiation
- Cellulitis infections
- Coronary Artery Bypass Graft with vein harvesting
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency
- Dependent Positioning
- Inactivity (paralysis such as caused by a stroke, spinal cord injury or positioning)
Other conditions may benefit from an aspect of lymphedema treatment called manual lymph drainage (MLD). Indications for MLD can include:
- Health and wellness
- Meniere’s disease (dizziness, tinnitus or “ear ringing”)
- Pain (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome or unknown causes)
- Post-surgery (to reduce healing time, swelling, pain & scar tissue formation)
- Sports injuries (such as sprains or strains)
Does treatment work?
The short answer is yes, treatment does work. However, a variety of factors impact results. These include therapist training and patient appropriateness (i.e. accurate diagnosis). For research on lymphedema treatment and the efficacy of manual lymph drainage, visit this link.
Note: Foldi’s Textbook for Lymphedema outlines three types of lymphatic insufficiency resulting in volume increase:
- Lymphostatic (a.k.a. mechanical insufficiency of the lymphatics, a high-protein edema)
- Dynamic (a low-protein edema such as malnutrition, renal dysfunction & congestive heart failure)
- Combined Forms (lymphostatic & dynamic components)
In dynamic or in combined forms listed above, volume should improve or resolve (in the case of dynamic alone) once the underlying medical condition is treated. However, sometimes a physician may desire compression for help in managing volume & its complications (such as weeping) once a person is medically stable. When such conditions are present, extreme caution must be exercised &, in some case, treatment may not be appropriate at all.