The lymphatic system plays a large role in immune function and circulation. It is a network of vessels that collect extra fluid, wastes and proteins from the tissue spaces in order to prevent swelling, filter wastes and maintain healthy tissue.
Lymphedema is an abnormal swelling of a body part or region. The lymph vessels that carry the fluid are damaged and/or overwhelmed. This leads to the build-up of fluid, protein and wastes in the tissues.
Lymphedema is a chronic, non-curable but managable condition if recognized and treated early.
Lymphedema can be classified into two main categories:
Primary lymphedema: Some people are born with poor or nonfunctioning lymphatic vessels. This conditon can be seen at birth or not manifest until later in life.
Secondary lymphedema: This form of lymphedema is acquired through trauma, disease, surgical procedures or most often, it is associated as a complication to cancer treatment where a combination of surgery, radiation and/or lymph node removal has occured.
Lymphedema is treated by Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT). There are four main components to CDT. MLD (manual lymphatic drainage massage), compression therapy, exercise and skin care. At Swelling Solutions, we deem education an important fifth factor of lymphedema treatment so that our clients can make informed decisions regarding their treatment and be well equipped to manage their swelling. Treatment is performed by a therapist trained in decongestive therapy. It is important when locating a therapist that you ask the following questions:
1) Do you have specialized training to treat lymphedema that encompasses: MLD, compression therapy, exercise and skin care? Are you certified in CDT?
2) What school did you take your courses through and was this course at least 130 hrs in duration. How do you keep current with new lymphedema research?
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