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Lymphedema

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Lymphedema surgery

Lymphedema is swelling of a body part caused by a lymphatic fluid buildup in the tissues. It most often occurs in the arms and legs, but it can also affect the head, chest, breast, abdomen, and genitals.

What are the symptoms of lymphedema?

  • Swelling
  • Skin tightness
  • Pain
  • Heaviness in the affected area
  • Reduced joint flexibility

As it progresses, it causes hardening of the tissues, reduced mobility, and can lead to infections and recurring skin problems.


What causes lymphedema?

Lymphedema can be caused by a malformation of the lymphatic system present at birth (congenital abnormality), called primary lymphedema. Symptoms of primary lymphedema can begin in infancy or develop later in life, such as during puberty or pregnancy.

It can also develop as a result of a disease or treatment — called secondary lymphedema — such as:

  • Cancer, which can block lymph nodes or vessels
  • Cardiovascular diseases that affect blood flow or cause venous insufficiencies
  • Surgery or radiation therapy for cancer treatment
  • Lymphatic system infections or trauma
  • Removal of the lymph nodes
  • Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis

Lymphedema doesn’t go away on its own, and it can affect both your physical and emotional wellness. It’s essential to seek treatment right away. A physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor) can help you start living better. The University of Miami Health System offers the latest treatments to help reduce swelling and let you move freely, without pain. You get personal attention and expert care from a team of specialists. Make an appointment with a physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor) at the University of Miami Health System and start living better.


How is lymphedema diagnosed?

Your therapist will conduct a thorough physical exam – as well as collect a full medical history – to make the diagnosis of lymphedema.

Your specialist may recommend you undergo an imaging test – such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or Doppler ultrasound – to closely examine the area of your body affected by lymphedema.


How is lymphedema treated?

The University of Miami Health System has developed a specialized rehabilitation program to help patients with lymphedema, called complete decongestion therapy (CDT).

CDT consists of manual lymph drainage (MLD), a gentle technique that helps to move the lymph fluid out of the swollen extremity. A special, short-stretch compression bandage is then applied to the affected extremity after MLD to prevent the re-accumulation of fluid.


Why Choose UHealth?

Specialized expertise and comprehensive services. We have special programs in cancer rehabilitation, rehabilitation psychology, and neuropsychology. From restoring your physical and emotional health, to providing education for prevention and wellness, we’re here for all your needs.

Multispecialty care with teams built around your condition. Our rehabilitation team works closely with oncologists, surgeons, rheumatologists, dermatologists, and others to customize your treatment plan. You have access to the latest non-surgical, minimally invasive approaches to managing pain, including neurostimulation and neuromusculoskeletal ultrasound-guided injections, all in one place.

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