Lymphedema Management

Saint Joseph Hospital
1525 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 525-7868

Treatment of Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the interstitium caused by a compromised lymphatic system.

Primary lymphadema occurs without any obvious cause. It may be present at birth, at the onset of puberty, or may develop after age 35. Some cases are familial as well as congentital. Primary lymphedema is most common in females occurring in the lower extremities.

Secondary lymphedema is caused by an injury to the lymphatic vessels, most commonly seen after lymph node dissection, surgery, and/or radiation therapy. Occasionally, trauma to or chronic infections of the lymphatic system can cause secondary lymphedema.

Stages of Lymphedema

  • Stage 0: Latency Stage
  • Stage 1: Reversible
  • Stage 2: Spontaneously Irreversible
  • Stage 3: Lymphostatic Elephantiasis

Patients who receive intervention in the early stages may be able to prevent progression of lymphedema to a more chronic/irreversible stage.

Treatment for Lymphedema

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), is the treatment of choice for lymphedema. CDT, performed by a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, consists of:

  • Manual Lymph Drainage - MLD is a gentle manual technique which reroutes lymph flow around a blockage into areas of the body where the lymphatic system is functioning properly.
  • Compression Therapy - Bandaging between treatments prevents the re-accumulation of evacuated lymph fluid; compression garments are used for long-term maintenance.
  • Exercise - Remedial exercises performed while wearing compression activates the lymph kinetic effects of the joint and muscle pumps, leading to further reduction of the swollen extremity.
  • Meticulous Skin and Nail Care - The goal is to eliminate bacterial and fungal growth, either of which can lead to repeated infections of cellulitis and/or lymphangitis.

To learn more about our program, please contact Charlene Giraldo, OTR/L, CLT, at the Rehabilitation and Fitness Center, (773) 525-7868.

Call 877-RES-INFO for Nurse Advice, Doctor Referrals or Class Registration Monday - Friday 8 am to 8 pm • Weekends 8 am to 4pm

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