LiveSmart: Education, Management Critical to Managing Lymphedema

[This story was written by Giuseppe Ragonese, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA, a physical therapist with St. Peter’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.] March is Lymphedema Awareness Month, a time to increase awareness of this chronic and progressive disorder. Lymphedema results from an impaired lymphatic system, which helps the body regulate fluid levels and defend against infections. Water, proteins, and other substances are always leaking out of tiny blood capillaries throughout the body and into the tissues around them. When the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system, is compromised the lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid, usually from an arm or leg. Lymphedema can either be primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema occurs from abnormal lymphatic formation, with swelling starting at birth or even into the teen years. Secondary lymphedema can have a number of causes including malignancy, obesity, trauma, surgery, and infection. In the U.S., the most common cause of lymphedema is breast cancer. However, with the obesity pandemic growing, there is a subgroup of lymphedema patients that do not meet any lymphatic […]