Lymphedema is often associated with breast cancer patients. It’s a condition that causes a backup of fluid after lymph nodes have been removed in surgery or radiated. But, in fact, lymphedema can happen to anyone. Linda Hodgkins, Lymphedema Program Director at the Hartford Hospital Rehabilitation Network, explains.
Q. What causes lymphedema?
A. It can caused by surgery, or radiation therapy, like you mentioned, but it can also happen as we get older, have had injuries or surgeries such as a knee replacement that cause scar tissue. It is also more common when we become overweight, and less active.
Q. What are some of the symptoms of lymphedema?
A. The most common complaint is tired, aching, heavy legs that are swollen. It can be difficult to find shoes and pants that fit as the swelling becomes more severe. As the legs become more swollen, achy, and heavy, you feel less motivated to move, and weight gain often results. More severe swelling can lead to infections in the legs and sometimes even wounds.
Q. Tell us about the treatment that you offer at the Hartford Hospital Rehabilitation Network?
A. We use a treatment called complete decongestive therapy. That includes manual lymphatic drainage, which is a light stretching or massage of the skin, bandaging of the limb to reduce the fluid, and once the swelling is down we then fit a compression sock or sleeve that is worn daily to keep the fluid from coming back. We do check ups every 6 months or year to replace or renew the compression garment so that it remains effective.
Q. What are some of the myths about lymphedema that you would like to address?
A. Many times people ignore the swelling for years to wait and see if it goes away. Like any disease, it is most effective and efficient to treat swelling in the early stages. Leaving the swelling in the limb can causes all kinds of skin problems such as wounds and infections. It’s always best to address it early before complications set in.
For more information
Free Class: 'What is Lymphedema', June 28, Wethersfield
Visit: Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network