County residents suffering from lymphedema now have new options available for local treatment since TAMC Physical Therapist Taryn Everett, PT, DPT, CLT, recently completed her certification in manual lymph drainage and complete decongestive therapy through the Academy of Lymphatic Studies.
Lymphedema is a high-protein swelling, usually of a person’s extremities. It can affect one or more of an individual’s arms or legs. Some people are born with the condition (primary lymphedema), while others develop lymphedema after their lymphatic system is affected by an illness or injury. A blockage in the lymphatic system causes excess fluid build-up and can create discomfort and restrictions in movement, among other symptoms and complications.
The most common cause for lymphedema in the United States is breast cancer; however, it can also occur as a result of radiation, infection, trauma or other co-morbidities. Lymphedema is a chronic condition once it manifests, and it requires lifelong management and treatment to control the swelling that happens in the affected extremity, explained Everett.
“Lymphedema can happen to anyone, male or female, of any age,” said Everett. “Currently, there is no ‘cure’ for lymphedema, and it is a lifelong condition that must be managed, much like a diabetes patient. However, with treatment, lymphedema patients can keep their condition under control and managed, so that their condition does not interfere with their everyday functional and recreational activities.”
TAMC is currently accepting patient referrals and will provide services in the physical therapy department at A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital in Presque Isle. This new service will enable lymphedema patients to receive their treatments closer to home.
“Our new treatment service will offer extensive patient education regarding lymphedema and lifelong management of their condition. The therapist will help the patient in getting their swelling under control and to a manageable state through the use of various treatment techniques. Patients will also be provided with self-techniques to carry on with when they are discharged from formal therapy services so that they can independently manage their swelling,” said Everett.
Treatments for lymphedema – and conditions related to lymphedema, such as lipedema, lipo-lymphedema, chronic venous insufficiency, traumatic edema, and various others – include manual lymphatic drainage, skin care, decongestive exercises, and compression in the form of bandaging and garments.
“Manual lymphatic drainage is a light manual technique applied to the patient’s skin in order to reroute their fluid to an area where the body can take it up and reduce their swelling. Skin care is vital to their treatment, as patients with lymphedema are highly prone to cellulitis and/or fungal infections. Bandaging is utilized in the first phase of treatment in order to compress the affected extremity and maintain the reduction in swelling that happened from manual lymphatic drainage and break up any fibrotic tissue. In the second phase of treatment, the patient will be measured and fitted for a compression garment that they will wear long term to control their swelling. Decongestive exercises are performed with the bandages or garment on, and are used to help the patient take an active role in their treatment, decrease swelling, and promote a healthy lifestyle,” explained Everett.
Everett completed a 135-hour course to receive her certification to treat patients with lymphedema and related conditions. The certification is necessary so that the treating therapist has the knowledge and skills to educate the patient about the condition and provide the necessary treatments. Certified lymphedema therapists can help manage lymphedema by evaluating the affected area(s), identifying treatment goals, and providing individual treatment aimed at meeting these goals.
By keeping this service close to home, TAMC can help patients regain control of their lymphedema and take their lives back through quality, local care. Everett will work closely with patients and their families and/or caregivers to customize an appropriate treatment plan and improve quality of life.
“I think awareness of lymphedema and accurate diagnosis is one of the biggest pieces in the patient’s treatment. It is also vital that the patient remains compliant with their outlined treatment plan to get the best outcomes. We look forward to starting up this new service and providing it to the patients here in our area,” said Everett.
To be seen by a lymphedema therapist, the patient must simply obtain a referral through their primary care physician or other referring physician who may deem the treatment appropriate. All inquiries can be directed to the TAMC rehab and therapy department at (207) 768-4169.