Clinical Specialties : Lymphedema

Lymphedema Program

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling of a body part, which is seen more commonly in the extremities. It is also possible for it to take place in the face, the trunk, the abdomen, or the genital area. Lymphedema occurs when there is a buildup of protein-rich fluid in the superficial tissues. This must be addressed as soon as possible because if left untrreated lymphedema can have major pathological and clinical consequences. Once lymphedema is present it will require treatment, this condition will not go away on its own.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

The severity of symtpoms depends on the stage of lymphedema. During early stages the main sympton is swelling. As the lymphedema progresses the protein-rich swelling causes a hardening of the effected tissues. Other complications that are seen in the later stages of lymphedema are:

• Fungal Infections
• Additional Hardening
• Extreme increase in volume of the swollen extremity

Complete Decongestion Therapy (CDT)

The Department of Physical Therapy at the Universtiy of Miami Hospital is pleased to announce it has developed a specialized rehabilitation program to help patients with lymphedema. This program is committed to providing services targeting the treatment of lymphedema through (CDT).

There is no cure for lymphedema; the main goal of therapy is to reduce the swelling and other symptoms and to keep up the reduction through CDT.

CDT consists of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), a gentle manual technique that helps to move the lymph fluid out of the swollen extremity and Compression Therapy. In lymphedema the skin is damaged and in order to prevent the reaccumulation of fluid after MLD it is required to apply special short- stretch compression bandages to the affected extremity.

Possible Causes for Lymphedema

Lymphedema can be primary or secondary:

Primary Lymphedema: is caused by congenital malformations of the lymphatic system.

  • Can be present at birth or develop later in life
  • Can appear around puberty or pregnancy
  • Uusally affects the lower extremities, but can be seen in the upper extremities

Secondary Lymphedema: is caused by trauma to the lymphatic system.

  • Surgery or radiation therapy for cancer
  • Removal of lymph nodes
  • Trauma or infection of lymphatic sytem
  • Severe venous insufficiencies
  • Can effect either upper or lower extremities