New Britain General campus:
Lymphedema is a common condition caused by accumulation of lymph fluid. Swelling occurs, usually in an arm or leg, but can also happen in the chest, face, neck, or genitals. Untreated, lymphedema can lead to further swelling, skin changes and infection. It can be life threatening.
The Hospital of Central Connecticut offers a variety of non-invasive therapies designed to reduce swelling and discomfort, lower infection risk and decrease the likelihood of future incidences of lymphedema.
Part of the immune system, the lymphatic system consists of lymph glands, or “nodes”, and a network of lymphatic vessels (similar to veins and arteries) throughout the body. The vessels carry lymph, a fluid containing protein, white blood cells and other substances.
Lymphedema occurs when lymph vessels in an area stop pumping and lymph accumulates in body tissues.
There are two types of lymphedema:
- Primary lymphedema results when a person is born without lymph vessels or nodes.
- Secondary lymphedema occurs when lymphatic vessels or nodes are damaged or removed, most often after surgery and radiation therapy to treat breast, prostate or pelvic area cancers, lymphoma or melanoma.
Hospital of Central Connecticut occupational and physical therapists specializing in lymphedema perform Complete Decongestive Therapy, a painless, non-invasive treatment that includes:
Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
- Uses massage-like techniques to re-route lymph around blocked/damaged nodes or vessels and drain the area. MLD can reduce swelling, decrease infection risk, soften tissues and improve the affected area’s appearance.
- Between MLD treatments, you’ll wear special bandages or garments on the affected area to prevent re-accumulation of lymph fluid.
- Include special exercises for the affected area and deep-abdominal breathing techniques to increase lymph circulation.
- You’ll learn meticulous skin and nail care to prevent infection.
When patients reach a maintenance phase, they’ll learn how to use bandages and compression garments and perform self-MLD.