The lymphatic system is a one-way fluid transport system designed to transport protein rich fluid from the periphery of the body and return it to the circulatory system. Lymphedema is swelling of any part of the body due to insufficiency of the lymphatic system. This can be a blockage of the lymphatic vessels or nodes that prevents the lymphatic fluid from leaving the limb or a deficit in number or size of lymphatic vessels.
Primary lymphedema can be present without any causative factors and is usually genetic in origin.
Secondary lymphedema is most commonly a result of trauma, surgery or radiation therapy. All types of lymphedema respond well to a comprehensive management program.
Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is performed by specially trained practitioners and consists of manual lymphatic drainage, patient education, skin care, exercise and compression therapy. Compression therapy is provided in several forms.
A layered bandaging system is generally the first step in girth reduction and is followed by an easy to apply compression garment.
Proper skin care helps to prevent secondary complications of lymphedema such as infections.
Exercise is an integral part of lymphedema treatment and increases the return of lymphatic fluid by using the body’s own muscle-pump system.
The combination of all these treatments is very successful in managing lymphedema and can be taught to the patient as a self management program.
CDT is also effective in treating other edemas such as vascular edema or post surgical edemas. Chronic venous insufficiency is easily and effectively treated by components of CDT including bandaging with progression to permanent compression garments, exercise and patient education.