What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid that causes swelling in the arms and legs. Edema occurs when venous or lymphatic vessels, or both, are impaired. When the impairment is so great (following an axillary node dissection for example), that the lymph fluid exceeds the lymphatic transport capacity, an abnormal amount of protein fluid collects in the tissues of the extremity. Untreated, this stagnant, protein-rich fluid not only causes tissue channels to increase in size and number, but also reduces oxygen through the transport system. It interferes with wound healing and provides a culture medium for bacteria that can result in various infections. A chronic inflammatory condition stemming from this accumulation of fluid eventually results in fibrosis (hardening) of the extremity tissues.
Who is at Risk?
At risk is anyone who has had either a simple mastectomy, lumpectomy or modified radical mastectomy in combination with axillary node dissection and, often, radiation therapy. Lymphedema can occur immediately postoperative, within a few months, a couple of years, or 20 years or more after cancer therapy.
For More Information
The National Lymphedema Network
(NLN) was created to increase awareness of lymphedema through education and to promote and support the availability of quality medical treatment for all individuals at risk for or affected by this condition. The 18 Steps to Prevention are recommended by the NLN. For further information about lymphedema and the NLN, contact them at:
The National Lymphedema Network, Inc.
1611 Telegraph Ave., Suite 1111
Oakland, CA 94612-2138
Toll-Free Infoline: 800/541-3259
Web Site: www.lymphnet.org
Los Angeles Area Lymphedema Resources
St. John's Health Center
Joyce Rosenbaum, P.T.
1328 22nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Long Beach Memorial Medical Center
Ellie Ho, MPT
2840 Long Beach Blvd. Suite 210
Long Beach, CA 90806