Allegheny Health Network
Find a
Doctor
Request An Appointment Login to
MyChart
Patient
Center
News Classes &
Events
Contact
Us
Call 412.Doctors

Wound Care at AVH

What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a disorder of the lymphatic system where an excess of protein-rich fluid accumulates in the tissues resulting in swelling usually in the arms or legs. It can also affect the head, trunk or any other body organ but this is less common. In a chronic state, you can also get hardness or fibrosis in the tissues.
 
The main roles of the lymphatic system are to remove excess fluid, carry waste products and fight infection in the body.
 
What causes lymphedema?
Common causes of lymphedema include:
• Lymph vessels or lymph nodes that are damaged, blocked or surgically removed.
• Complications of cancer treatment following surgery or radiation for mastectomy, melanoma, cervical, uterine, rectal, prostate or testicular cancers.
• Burns or trauma from accidents or insect bites
• Congenital malformation of lymphatic vessels in children at birth or in adolescence.
 
What are the stages of lymphedema?
In the early stage edema is not seen outwardly because of the adaptability of the lymphatic system. In the next stage the edema is reversible. You may notice edema by the end of the day but it resolves overnight. By stage 3 the edema does not go away. The last stage is elephantitis.
 
The most noticeable symptom is edema or swelling in the limb. This usually begins in the foot or hand. It often happens after an infection or incident to the limb. Anybody who notices persistent swelling should seek medical advice.
 
What is the treatment for lymphedema?
 
In the early stage, elevating the limb can help. If the swelling increases, using a compression pump, wearing a compression garment and/or undergoing a treatment called Complex Decongestive Therapy
(CDT) can all be helpful. CDT – consists of:
 
• Manual lymphatic drainage and instruction in self-massage.
• Compression wraps and/or daily compression garments.
• Exercise
• Skin care
• Education
 
A main component of the program is the manual lymphatic drainage, which is a specific light touch massage to stimulate the flow of the lymphatic system. This can help rid the body of extra fluid and decrease the lymphedema.
 
Treatment is one-on-one and involves commitment of the patient or family/ caregiver to achieve the best results. Our goal is to decrease the lymphedema and provide you with the tools needed to manage your lymphedema.
 
Although there is no cure for lymphedema, there is treatment. Call 724.224.2166 for more information.