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Swelling? Could It Be Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a retention of protein rich fluid that accumulates in the extremities, most commonly the arms/legs or both. There are two main types of lymphedema.

Primary lymphedema is hereditary and there is no known cause.

Secondary Lymphedema has many causes including:

  • Cancer related treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, removal of lymph nodes)

  • Injury, trauma, or general surgery

  • Chronic insufficiency or blood clots

  • Obesity

Lymphedema can oftentimes be misdiagnosed as just normal limb swelling, average fluid retention, or aging related complications. If you have seen your doctor and been put on water pills (diuretics) and your swelling will not reduce, consider these signs and symptoms

of lymphedema.

Signs and symptoms:

Feeling of tightness or heaviness in the extremity

Aching or discomfort in the affected area

Pitting or indentations in the skin

Skin coloration changes


Complete decongestive Therapy comprises of 3 parts

  1. 1. Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) - massage technique to stimulate movement of lymph fluid throughout the body

  2. Compression - short stretch bandaging, pumps, and other compression garments

  3. Exercise - stimulates increased circulation, flexibility, and ROM

At Wasatch Physical therapy we have therapists trained in lymphedema treatment. If you feel you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of lymphedema please go see your doctor or call us directly.

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