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What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition which causes increased fluid build up in the tissues. This accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissue causes chronic swelling. Lymphedema is a condition that will worsen if left untreated.

Hand wrapped for lymphedema a treatment.

What parts of the body does Lymphedema affect?

Lymphedema can occur in the arms, legs, or trunk, depending on where the lymph vessels have a decreased ability to remove fluid from the body's tissues. It is most often seen in the arms or legs.

What are common symptoms of Lymphedema? 

Signs and Symptoms may include: 

  • Feelings of fullness, tightness, swelling, or thickening in the affected limb or body part.
  • Burning or tingling sensations radiating down affected limb or body part.
  • Feelings of heaviness or aching in the affected limb or body part.
  • Swelling in the affected limb or body part that may initially fluctuate but worsens over time.
  • Difficulty wearing jewelry or clothing due to swelling in the affected limb or body part.
  • Fatigue
  • Early symptoms tend to be inconsistent and vague. These symptoms may, or may not be related to activity levels initially.

 How is Lymphedema treated?

Physical therapy treatment for lymphedema involves a program of manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandaging, and exercise to promote the reabsorption and removal of excess lymph fluid from the affected limb or body part. Treatment also includes education and instruction in self-care activities and home exercises for the long-term self-management of this chronic condition. Functional limitations along with secondary orthopedic conditions may occur with lymphedema. Treatment is provided in order to assist each person in returning to his or her normal activities.

This service is offered at:

Gig Harbor Clinic
Tacoma Clinic
Puyallup Clinic
South Hill Clinic
Spanaway Clinic
University Place Clinic

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