How to Prevent and Treat Lymphedema

Lymphedema refers to the swelling and/or pain that occurs when the normal drainage of fluid is disrupted by a blockage or a cut in the lymph nodes in the groin area or the armpit. Lymphedema can be a hereditary condition, but it’s most commonly the result of blockages caused by infection, cancer, and scar tissue from radiation therapy or the surgical removal of lymph nodes (*).

If you notice any swelling, tightness of skin or discomfort in the area where you had surgery or received radiation, please contact your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with lymphedema, there are specialists who can help reduce the swelling and discomfort (see resources below).

Potential Red Flags for lymphedema (*)

  • Swelling in your arms, legs, shoulders, hands, fingers, or chest
  • Skin that feels tighter, harder, or thicker than normal in the affected area
  • Aching or a feeling of heaviness in your arm or leg
  • Weakness in your arm or leg
  • Inability to move certain joints, such as your wrist or ankle, as freely as usual
  • “Pitting” in the tissues of your limb (an indentation that is made by pressing a finger on the skin that takes time to “fill in” after the pressure is removed)
  • Clothing, rings, bracelets, or shoes that fit tighter than before
  • Repeated infections in your arm or leg
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty doing your daily activities

 

Websites with Useful Information:

The National Lymphedema Network

  • A website with information on prevention and treatment. They sell a bracelet that identifies you as someone who should not have blood drawn or blood pressure taken on the affected arm. 
  • The National Lymphedema Network

The American Physical Therapy Association

  • A website with information on the prevention and management of lymphedema
  • Visit their website.

 Local Treatment for Lymphedema

University Hospitals

  • University Hospitals has a pamphlet with information about treatment and information on making an appointment with a lymphedema specialists at all of their locations.
  • Click here to view the University Hospitals informational pamphlet.

The Cleveland Clinic Hospitals

  • Cleveland Clinic locations have two types of lymphedema specialists: one group of breast cancer related lymphedema specialists and one group of therapists who treat all lymphedema.
  • To schedule an appointment with a specialist, call 216-444-6262 after you have receive a prescription from your doctor for treatment.

MetroHealth System

  • MetroHealth professionals provide services to help prevent and treat lymphedema.
  • Call them at 216-778-4414 for more information.

Massotherapists licensed for Manual Lymph Drainage:

  • Kyle True: 440-734-6570; Visit Kyle’s website
  • Karen Shelly, LMT (located in Cleveland Heights): 216-371-1518

Other Resources and Information about Lymphedema

Discount Drug Mart’s  “A Woman’s Place”

  • Various locations in northeast Ohio sell lymphedema supplies
  • Call them for a location and more information at 1-800-434-9440

The Gathering Place Education Center

We have several books about lymphedema that can be borrowed, including:

 

(*) Information from the American Physical Therapy Association

This list does not replace the advice of your surgeon or oncologist. This list does not claim include all therapists in our area. This list is not a recommendation or endorsement of any individual, institution or website.