Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
If you are experiencing swelling in your arms or legs it could be Lymphedema or Venous edema. Lymphedema is a condition that results from the accumulation of the lymphatic fluid in some areas of the body causing swelling. There are multiple reasons for swelling, but most lymphedema cases are due to malignancy or related to the treatment of malignancy. This includes surgical excision of lymph nodes, local radiation treatment, or medical therapy.
Treatment for lymphedema can prevent complications such as open wounds, infections, hardening of skin, scarring, pain, impaired mobility, decreased function, and poor quality of life.
Lymphedema is best treated by a Certified Lymphedema Specialist. The most effective lymphedema treatment is known as Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). CDT effectively reduces swelling and reverses tissue changes. The length and frequency of the treatment depends on the severity of the condition, and the intense phase of treatment is 3-5 times per week for 4-8 weeks.
The components of CDT include Manual Lymphatic Drainage which is a gentle very slow and rhythmic technique that with circular movements stretches the skin and stimulates lymphatic vessels and nodes. Short stretch bandages made from specific material are utilized at the beginning of the treatment to assist in reducing reduce the area’s volume. Later the extremity will be fitted with compression garments. Decongestive exercises are also an important part of the treatment plan. An individual exercise program for each patient is provided and to be performed daily. The last component of the treatment includes meticulous inspection of the skin and nails which is essential in observing any signs of bacterial or fungal infection. Skin is cleaned and moisturizing lotion is applied.
Truman VA now has a Certified Lymphedema Specialist to provide Complete Decongestive Therapy to all Veterans who may be experiencing lymphedema. Dipti Patel is a dedicated Physical Therapist who has been practicing for 19 years and is certified as a Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) through the Norton school of Lymphatic therapy. She is a member of North American Lymphedema Education Association (NALEA) and is excited about offering Lymphedema treatment to the Veterans at the Truman VA Medical Center.
If you are a Veteran and are experiencing swelling in your arms or legs, please contact your Primary Care provider and inquire about an evaluation from our Lymphedema Specialist.