Lymphedema occurs as a result of damage to the lymph nodes or lymph vessels. Damage can be mechanical, physiological, traumatic or even as a result of birth defect.
The lymph vessels are very close to the blood vessels in our bodies and move fluid from the body through the lymph nodes and then into the blood. Lymph nodes work as filters to fight infection and help regulate swelling.
Lymphedema is chronic swelling of high protein edema that happens when the lymph is not moving properly. This can happen when lymph nodes are removed due to cancer. Lymph nodes can also be removed in other non-cancer surgeries. Lymph nodes and vessels can also be damaged with radiation therapy for cancer or through an injury to a body part.
Some people have damaged leg veins or a history of blood clots. These people can also develop lymphedema due to back up of blood and fluid in the small vessels of the body.
Lymphedema results in chronic swelling that leads to tissue inflammation and scarring. The swollen body part feels harder to touch and is heavier than the non-swollen side.
How Is Lymphedema Treated?
The best treatment for lymphedema is complete decongestive therapy (CDT).
What is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT)?
Complete decongestive therapy (CDT) has 4 parts:
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) - A light skin stretching technique that stimulates the lymphatic system
- Compression - Layered bandaging with foam or specially fitted garments that support the swollen area to control swelling.
- Exercises - With compression, special exercises will help to pump lymph out of the swollen area.
- Skin Care - Keeping the skin clean and moisturized will help to prevent infections that often can happen with lymphedema.
How Long Does Treatment Last?
It varies from 2 weeks to 3 months depending on level of fluid.
How Can I Order Complete Decongestive Therapy?
If you feel that you would benefit from the CDT treatment and have not been able to receive services due to difficulty leaving the home, please feel free to call Panhandle Home Health, 304-263-5680. If you qualify for home care services, an order for lymphedema treatment is required from your physician.
In January 2017, Annette Thompson, MSOT, Certified Lymphedema Therapist, began working for Panhandle Home Health. She is certified in Complete Decongestive Therapy, which is recognized as the Gold Standard treatment for Lymphedema.
Mrs. Thompson is a native of Morgan County WV and is a graduate of Berkeley Springs High School. She is a 1996 graduate of Shepherd College with a BA in Psychology and a 2000 graduate of Shenandoah University with an MSOT in Occupational Therapy with a specialization certificate in Health Care Management.
She has worked in mental health services for fifteen years, first in community mental health in housing and vocational programming and then at a MD State Psychiatric Hospital, Springfield Hospital Center. In these settings she had many professional opportunities in leadership, management, and program development positions. Ms. Thompson has spoken several times at MOTA and AOTA annual conferences on related topics to OT in mental health, and co-authored a chapter in the 2011 OT text book Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, A Vision for Participation.
After years in mental health, Annette began providing OT services in the home health setting as an employee and then as an independent contractor. Other professional experiences include serving pediatric patients in an out-patient clinic on a part-time basis, serving as a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army Reserves in an occupational therapy position, and adjunct faculty at Towson State University OT Program.
Over the past year she has worked for Berkeley Medical Center in acute rehabilitation and in out-patient rehabilitation services. She received her lymphedema certification in April of 2016 and is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.
Mrs. Thompson is excited to return to serving patients in the home health care setting and is excited to be working with Panhandle Home Health. If you feel that you would benefit from the CDT treatment and have not been able to receive services due to difficulty leaving the home, please feel free to call Panhandle Home Health, 304-263-5680.
Panhandle Home Health, Inc. is a non-profit home health agency and a proud partner of the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, providing high quality in-home health services to residents of Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan Counties. Their staff of licensed and credentialed professionals includes registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, a speech therapist, medical social workers, a registered dietician and certified home health aides. For more information about Panhandle Home Health, please call 304-263-5680 or visit their website at www.PanhandleHomeHealth.org.