On Friday, March 6, therapists from Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network will be on hand at several locations throughout the state to provide information about lymphedema services in recognition of World Lymphedema Day. In preparation for the event, Linda Hodgkins, Clinical Program Manager for HHCRN’s lymphedema services, answers some common questions about the condition.
What is Lymphedema?
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that transports lymph, a protein-rich fluid, back to the blood. Lymphedema is a chronic swelling, due to an accumulation of this lymph fluid in the soft tissue. The buildup of stagnant fluid causes a mild to severe increase in limb girth, a decrease in tissue healing ability, and a high susceptibility to infections or cellulitis in the affected limb. Lymphedema most often occurs in the arm or leg, but can also occur in the face, neck, abdomen or genitals. Primary lymphedema is the result of missing or impaired lymphatic vessels; symptoms may develop at birth or later in life. Secondary lymphedema, a much more common type, is a result of lymph vessel damage or lymph node removal during surgery or radiation therapy. It may also occur after injury, scarring, trauma, or infection of the lymphatic system.
What are the first signs of Lymphedema?
The first signs of lymphedema are usually discomfort, heaviness, and aching of the impacted area. These symptoms may come and go depending on your level of activity. These symptoms can be followed by visible signs of swelling in the impacted area.
How do you treat Lymphedema?
The most effective treatment for lymphedema is Complete Decongestive Therapy, which includes several treatment components including: manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandaging, exercise, and skin care. Once the swelling has been reduced through these treatment modalities, a compression garment is fit to maintain the reduction of swelling. The compression garment is worn daily to prevent the swelling from returning to the affected area.
How do you prevent Lymphedema?
You may not be able to prevent lymphedema, but there are some things that you can do to lower your risk, including:
- Maintain a healthy body weight, or BMI.
- Participate in a safe, slow progressing weight training program to reduce your risk of injury and development of lymphedema.
- Practice good skin care such as using skin moisturizers daily, and sunscreen and insect repellent in the summer.
- Wear gardening gloves while gardening.
- Avoid limb constriction with tight clothing or jewelry.
For more information about World Lymphedema Day, please visit https://lymphaticnetwork.org/wld
For information about the lymphedema services provided by Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network, please visit https://hartfordhealthcarerehabnetwork.org/services/lymphedema-management
World Lymphedema Day information tables will be located at:
MidState Medical Center
435 Lewis Ave, Meriden, CT 06451
80 Seymour St, Hartford, CT 06102
1 John H Stewart Drive, Newington, CT 06111
975 Corbin Ave, New Britain, CT 06052
Hospital of Central Connecticut – Cafeteria
100 Grand St 1st floor, New Britain, CT 06052
Hospital of Central Connecticut Cancer Institute
183 North Mountain Road, New Britain, CT 06053
326 Washington Street, Norwich, CT 06360
Charlotte Hungerford Hospital
540 Litchfield St, Torrington, CT 06790
Southington Care Center
45 Meriden Ave, Southington, CT 06489
Hartford HealthCare Family Health Center
5 Founders Street
Willimantic, CT 06226