Saravana Perfumal, Sorna, OTD, OTR/L, CLT, CEAS is Hunt Regional Medical Center’s (HRMC’s) lymphedema specialist. Sorna serves patients through therapy sessions using a technique called manual lymph drainage (MLD) that moves lymph fluid. The lymphedema staff at HRMC includes certified mastectomy garment fitters.
Lymphedema is the inability of the lymphatic system to transport fluid. Lymphedema can develop immediately or years after surgery or radiation and causes swelling in the limbs or legs. While any condition or procedure that injures or removes the lymph nodes can result in lymphedema, it is often times seen in patients who have undergone treatment for cancer.
The signs of lymphedema can be easily identified through daily functions. For example, in women, signs include heaviness, aching, and squeezing in the limbs. Also shirts, watches, and rings may not fit.
Treatments for lymphedema include manual lymph drainage (MLD), graduated compression garments, therapeutic exercises, and meticulous skin care. The goal of all treatments is to control swelling in the affected areas. To receive these treatments, patients are required to have a referral from their physician before treatment can begin.
The amount of treatment a patient needs depends on how big the lymph node is and how well the patient responds to the treatment. Though there is no cure for lymphedema, not treating it can lead to more medical problems.
Tips to living with and preventing lymphedema include protecting your skin, avoiding tight jewelry and clothing, practicing healthy nutrition and exercise, and always wearing compression garments when traveling or flying.