Occupational Therapy

Lymphedema Therapy

What is the lymphatic system?

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, lymph nodes and organs throughout our body that transports lymph fluid back to our bloodstream. The lymphatic system has extremely important functions, including:

  • Support for our immune and circulatory systems
  • Produces white blood cells protecting your body against disease
  • Transports waste and byproducts from our tissues for our body to eliminate

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema occurs when the normal transport of lymphatic fluid is disrupted from a problem in the lymph vessels or lymph nodes. This results in an excess accumulation of lymph fluid within our tissues – this can cause a part of the body to swell. Lymphedema can affect the hands, arms, legs, feet, trunk (breast, scrotum, abdomen), neck and even the face.

Who is at risk?

  • Primary lymphedema – genetic or hereditary.
  • Secondary lymphedema – can develop as a result of an infection, cancer, radiation, lymph node removal, trauma to a body part, lymphatic system overloaded (most commonly due to chronic venous insufficiency) or due to obesity (commonly affecting the legs).

Why is treatment needed?

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that could potentially continue to progress. A prolonged buildup of lymph fluid can lead to skin changes, wounds, and increase risk for developing an infection if it is left untreated.

Treatment for Lymphedema

At NCH, you will work one-on-one with a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT), who will perform a comprehensive evaluation and develop a treatment plan that will best address your needs.

Phase 1: Reduction Phase – In Clinic – Complete decongestive therapy

  • Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
  • Compression therapy
  • Exercise
  • Skin and nail care

Phase 2: Maintenance Phase – transition to self-management

  • Referral for Compression garments
  • Self-manual lymphatic drainage
  • Exercise
  • Skin care regimen
  • Diet/weight management
  • Pneumatic compression pumps for home use when appropriate


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