*Barb from Granville, IL, suffered from Lymphedema for almost 25 years before getting a correct diagnosis. Her feet hurt terribly, and her ankles would swell so badly she got blisters – the fluid build up had nowhere else to go but out.
She would tape her ankles in the morning to avoid getting the blisters by the end of the day. In the 25 years she suffered without a correct diagnosis, she was incorrectly given nitroglycerin, coumadin and other medications to treat conditions she didn’t even have.
Then she developed Restless Leg Syndrome, a condition which doctors told her she probably got as a result of her untreated Lymphedema.
An estimated 5 million people in the United States are afflicted with this condition, yet it continues to go undiagnosed, untreated and mistreated.
Even with all the medical advances we have made through the years, treatment for this condition was not available in the United States until the late 1980’s. Now, getting a correct diagnosis is still an issue, as it continues to go undiagnosed for millions of children and adults.
However, once diagnosed, a simple treatment can prevent life threatening infections, disfigurement, loss of mobility, and total disability.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema Therapy, also called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) can:
1) Reduce healing time for open wounds on swollen limbs
2) Reduce swelling following surgery for orthopedic conditions or plastic surgery
3) Reduce swelling following a trauma including fractures and facial trauma
4) Provide education and risk management for prevention of swelling
Before we go any further, I want to let you know that Barb is now doing very well. She came to us for Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and no longer has pain or blisters. Her swelling has gone down so much, she can now wear her favorite shoes!
Lymphedema is much more common than we realize, since it is significantly undiagnosed. It is most often diagnosed following surgery (such as breast cancer surgery) because there is an obvious “cause and effect.” But people who have Lymphedema without an obvious “cause” often go untreated.
Treatment for Lymphedema is critically important, since it is a progressive condition and makes the sufferer prone to infections which can affect the entire body.
|*Sue from Peru, IL, says her legs were so large and hard from swelling and fluid that she found walking difficult. She suffered with Lymphedema most of her life – since she was 13 – and doctors did not know how to treat it.Since getting referred to Sonnie by her podiatrist, she has lost 5 inches in one leg and 7 inches in the other. As an added bonus, Sue has also lost over 100 pounds because she can now move more easily and is much more active.|
Sonnie is a LANA-Certified Lymphedema Therapist
and Certified Garmet Fitter
One component of Lymphedema Therapy is a custom fitted garment, which helps to maintain the proper compression on the affected limb. A properly fitted custom made compression garment is also critical to the treatment’s success. In fact, an improperly fitted garment can do more harm than good.
Every patient is different, which makes garment fitting an art. It’s pretty rare that over-the-counter, generic-sized garments will be the right fit. And you certainly can’t get custom fitted garment at your local super store.
If a garment is too tight, it can hinder the flow of lymph fluid and circulation. If it’s too loose, it is constantly slipping down and hitting the extremity in the wrong place, potientially causing damage. A custom fitted garment is, as Goldilocks would say, “just right.”
What Does Lymphedema Look Like?
Lymphedema is often recognized by the appearance of the following symptoms:
Thickening or hardening of the skin
Tight or shiny skin
Appearance of blisters that leak clear fluid
In more advanced lymphedema, the skin can become difficult to indent when you press it
The feeling of tightness or heaviness in the limb (even without the presence of swelling)
What Does Lymphedema Feel Like?
Patients describe Lymphedema in a number of ways:
• Feeling like you’re carrying an extra limb
• General uncomfortable feeling
• Heaviness in the affected limb
• Tightness in the skin
• Feeling areas of fullness in the affected limb
Patients also say:
It affects the clothing and shoes you can wear
It limits what you can do
You don’t do as much as you would normally do
|*Vicki from Spring Valley, IL, first saw swelling in her legs when she was pregnant 18 years ago. For years after, it would go from better to worse and better again. Doctors could not tell her what was wrong. In October 2005, she took her shoes off after her daughter’s birthday party to see broken blood vessels across both her ankles. A trip to the Emergency Room gave her little relief. She was given steroids, which helped with the rash, but not the swelling. It wasn’t until Sonnie evaluated Vicki’s legs that she was correctly diagnosed with Lymphedema.|
Do you think you may have Lymphedema? Check out the free screening quiz here!
*We ALWAYS respect patient confidentiality. We only print stories with the patient’s permission, and even then, we don’t use the patient’s last name!