Lymphedema Therapy

Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of lymphatic fluid that causes swelling in the arms, legs and occasionally other areas of the body, often resulting from damage to the lymphatic system from radiation therapy, surgery, trauma and other causes. Untreated lymphedema can cause progressive hardening of the affected tissues, leading to increased risk for infections, such as cellulitis.

The qualified lymphedema professionals at North Kansas City Hospital can help you manage this condition with effective treatment methods and prevention tips.

Who Is at Risk for Lymphedema?

Anyone who has undergone surgery and/or radiation that removed or damaged lymph nodes is at risk of developing lymphedema. All cancer patients, particularly breast cancer patients, are at increased risk. Obesity and infections can also increase the risk of developing lymphedema. Lymphedema can occur immediately after cancer treatment or develop years later. Occasionally lymphedema can develop due to congenital (present at birth) malformations of the lymphatic system.

Lymphedema Symptoms

You may have lymphedema if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Feeling of “fullness” or “tightness” of the affected limb
  • Swelling in the hands or feet
  • Decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle
  • Difficulty fitting into clothing or jewelry
  • Persistent swelling

Lymphedema Care

Although there is no cure for lymphedema, appropriate treatment can effectively manage the condition and improve your quality of life. Early diagnosis and treatment is imperative to ensure the best prognosis and outcome.

Lymphedema treatment may include:

  • Manual lymph drainage – A manual technique designed to stimulate increased lymphatic flow.
  • Compression bandaging – Layers of padding and bandages are used to decrease the size of the affected area and prevent the return of swelling after manual lymph drainage.
  • Skin and Nail Care – Good skin and nail care is important to decrease the risk of infection which can lead to increased swelling.
  • Exercise – Gradual exercise and flexibility training on the affected side of the body can help improve lymphatic flow and move fluid out of the affected area.
  • Compression garments – After swelling is reduced as much as possible, compression garments are necessary to maintain results.

The lymphedema therapists at North Kansas City Hospital can help you with these and other methods for controlling your lymphedema symptoms. Working together, you’ll experience:

  • Improvement in skin quality
  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Maintained swelling reduction
  • Increased use and function of the involved body part
  • Overall improvement in your quality of life

Lymphedema Prevention Tips

North Kansas City Hospital provides treatment completed by qualified lymphedema professionals which can be highly effective. Good patient compliance greatly improves treatment results. Proper treatment should ensure the following for the patient:

  • Improvement in skin quality
  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Maintained swelling reduction
  • Increased use and function of the involved body part
  • Overall improvement in quality of life

Managing Lymphedema

For best results in managing your lymphedema, follow these tips:

  • Don’t ignore any increase in swelling or signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, itching or fever in the affected area. Contact your doctor or therapist right away.
  • Don’t allow blood draws, shots or blood pressure cuffs on the affected extremity.
  • Keep the skin on the affected extremity clean, well-moisturized and free from any type of trauma (bruises, cuts or scratches).
  • Wear sunscreen and insect repellant when outside to avoid sunburns and insect bites.
  • Wear gloves or closed-toe shoes to protect the affected extremity when performing gardening or housework that could result in injury.
  • Avoid heavy lifting or repetitive motions with the affected extremity.
  • Don’t wear tight, restrictive clothing or jewelry on the affected area.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes, such as saunas and hot tubs.
  • Maintain an ideal body weight with a well-balanced diet.

Learn more about lymphedema at our online Health Encyclopedia.

Lymphedema treatment is covered by most major insurance carriers.

To receive lymphedema therapy, ask your physician to refer you to North Kansas City Hospital’s Rehabilitation Services.

Contact Us

For more information on lymphedema services at North Kansas City Hospital, call 816-691-1795.