What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition in which lymph (or interstitial fluid and cellular waste) fluid accumulates and creates swelling, pain, and hardening of the tissue.

This accumulation can happen by either the body producing more fluid than previously and overwhelming the system or by something being changed and interfering with the system, such as surgery.

This can happen for many reasons, but typically after:

  • breast mastectomy with lymph node removal or biopsy
  • prostatectomy with lymph node removal or biopsy
  • knee replacement
  • hip replacement
  • shoulder replacement
  • elbow replacement

Lymphedema more frequently occurs in those who are older than 65, not physically active and medically overweight and obese.

Initial signs and symptoms of lymphedema are:

  • swelling in a limb, but goes away after elevating
  • feeling of heaviness in limb or side of the body where the previous surgery occurred pain in an area of the body where the fluid is accumulating

Treatment for lymphedema, Manual Lymph Drainage and bandaging are the standard. Manual lymph drainage is a manual therapy that helps relieve congestion and promote flow of lymph fluid. This helps to reduce swelling and heaviness in the affected area. Bandaging keeps compression on those tissues to prevent swelling from reoccurring. Bandaging can have many forms. It can consist of multiple layers of wrappings to create compression or specially knitted compression garments custom fitted to the individual.

While many patients are unaware, manual lymph drainage, complete decongestive therapy, and bandaging are covered by most insurance companies because they are considered a medical treatment.

For more information on this treatment, please contact Alaska Medical Specialties today.