03.14.2017 Back to News

March Is Lymphedema Awareness Month

It is estimated that 3 million to 5 million Americans who have lymphedema -- more people than have ALS, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease combined.

Lymphedema is the accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues as a result of a malfunction in the body’s lymphatic system. Two major functions of the lymphatic system include draining  excess fluid from tissues and assisting in the body’s immune response through a system of organs, lymph vessels and lymph nodes. Any disruption to this system from surgery (particularly to remove lymph nodes), radiation therapy, traumatic injury, congenital malformation or venous insufficiency can cause fluid to accumulate in the tissues and be noticed as swelling. It is generally a gradual progression and not typically acutely painful, but often is described as feelings of fullness, heaviness and aching. It can affect any area of the body and leads to an increased risk for infections, difficulty with mobility, fitting into clothes and completing daily tasks.

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is the gold standard for treatment for lymphedema and is available in the Methodist Health System at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center, the Physical Therapy Clinic on the second floor of Methodist Hospital's North Tower and at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs. Therapy is completed by certified lymphedema therapists (Physical and Occupational Therapists with additional specialized training) and may also include wound care and fitting of compression garments.

The Methodist Lymphedema Clinic is celebrating Lymphedema Awareness Month in March by recognizing patients and educating fellow staff and caregivers about the disorder. Two patient representatives chosen by the lymphedema team will be recognized by the National Lymphedema Network for publication in the quarterly newsletter.

For additional information on lymphedema, the MHS lymphedema team invites you to call the PT clinic in Omaha at (402) 354-4670 or in Council Bluffs at (712) 396-6061.