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About Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a disorder of the lymphatic system.

The Lymphatic System

Lymph is a colourless fluid which forms in the body and normally drains back into the blood circulation through a network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes.

The lymphatic system plays an important part in the body's defense against infection.

How Lymphedema Occurs

If the drainage routes through the lymphatic system become blocked or damaged, lymph accumulates in the tissues and swelling occurs. Unlike other edemas, lymphedema leads to changes in the tissues such a fibrosis and an increased risk of infection. The swelling can become even more difficult to control.

Types of Lymphedema

Primary lymphedema develops as a result of a malfunctioning lymphatic system, usually as a result of genetic underdevelopment.

Secondary lymphedema is the result of damage to the lymphatic pathways. This may be the result of treatment for cancer following surgery It can also occur as a result of infection, severe injury, burns or any other trauma that causes damage to the lymph nodes and vessels.

Lymphedema may occur months or years after surgery so it is important to understand and manage the life-long risk.

Lymphedema Symptoms

The signs and symptoms for lymphedema may include:

  • a full or heavy feeling in the affected limb
  • a feeling of tightness in the skin
  • less movement or flexibility in your hand, wrist, shoulder or ankle
  • trouble fitting into clothing or jewelry in one specific area

Unfortunately, some people are told that nothing can be done to help. Many doctors are either not knowledgeable or unaware of where to refer their patients for advice. Although there is no cure, there is help to manage the life-long condition.

Lymphedema Management and Treatment

The goal of lymphedema treatment is to help reduce and control the swelling, prevent it from getting worse and decrease the chance of complications.

The standard treatment is called Complex Decongestive Therapy, also called Combined Decongestive Therapy. The individual elements used in combination are:

  • Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) - a specialized massage to redirect lymph fluid
  • Compression Therapy - elastic bandaging or compression garments
  • Exercise - to promote lymphatic flow by activating muscle and joint pumps
  • Excellent Skin Care - the antibacterial cleaners and ph neutral lotions

The Lymphovenous Association of Ontario (LAO) recommends that the treatments must be performed by an experienced and certified therapist who has completed a minimum of 135 hours of post graduate training specific to lymphedema.

At Talspar Nursing Services, Donna Lue Reise, RN, is a certified MLD Therapist with over 300 hours in post graduate training specific to lymphedema and a proud member of the Lymphovenous Association of Ontario (LAO).

Also certified by the Lymphology Association North America, she is the only MLD Therapist in the Halton / Niagara Region that has earned and maintains the designation of Certified Lymphedema Therapist, CLT-LANA.

As an Authorizer for Lymphedema Garments for the Ontario ADP (Assistive Devices Program) and a certified fitter for compression garments, Talspar Nursing Services can recommend the product best suited to you specific needs. We are the only Hamilton MLD Therapist able to offer this combination of services.

Talspar Nursing Services, division of Talspar Inc., would like to acknowledge and thank the Lymphovenous Association of Ontario for the use of their material in the description and causes of this condition.