Lymphedema

Lymphedema

Our Approach to Treatment

Houston Methodist’s certified lymphedema therapists are among the best in the Houston area in educating and treating patients with lymphedema. Lymphedema is swelling in one or both of the arms or legs or around the neck, most commonly caused by lymph node removal or damage because of cancer treatment. It is a result of a lymphatic system blockage, which prevents lymph fluid drainage.

 

Our lymphedema therapists are committed to ensuring each patient receives care in a compassionate and collaborative environment. We will answer your questions and help you understand your condition. We also will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan, stay motivated and improve your quality of life.

 

Additionally, your therapists and doctors will collaborate to ensure you receive the treatments and compression garments you need to improve lymph fluid flow.

 

 

Causes

Any condition or procedure that damages lymph nodes or vessels can cause lymphedema, including:

  • Surgery – lymph nodes may be removed to check for cancer spread or surgical damage involving blood vessel
  • Cancer radiation treatment – can scar and inflame lymph nodes or vessels
  • Cancer – cancer cells may block lymphatic vessels
  • Infection – lymph node infection can restrict lymph fluid flow
  • Milroy's disease (congenital lymphedema) – begins in infancy and causes abnormal lymph node formation
  • Meige's disease (lymphedema praecox) – causes lymphedema around puberty or during pregnancy, though it can occur as late as age 35
  • Late-onset lymphedema (lymphedema tarda) – rarely occurs and usually begins after age 35

Symptoms

  • Swelling of the neck or part or all of your arm or leg, including fingers or toes
  • A feeling of heaviness, discomfort or tightness
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Aching
  • Recurring infections
  • Skin hardening and thickening (fibrosis)
 

Diagnostics

  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Doppler ultrasound – examines blood flow and pressure by bouncing high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) off red blood cells
  • Radionuclide imaging of the lymphatic system (lymphoscintigraphy) – injection with a radioactive dye and then scanning by a machine to show the dye moving through the lymph vessels
 

Treatments

  • Exercises
  • Wrapping the arm or leg – bandaging the entire limb encourages lymph fluid to flow toward the body’s trunk
  • Massage – manual lymph drainage may encourage lymph fluid flow from the arm or leg
  • Compression garments
  • Pneumatic compression pumps
  • Complete decongestive therapy (CDT) – combines therapies with lifestyle changes

Treatment Locations

Our doctors treat lymphedema at the following locations:

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