Reprinted with permission
Although swelling of the lower extremity affects millions of people worldwide, researchers, doctors, nurses and clinicians only in the last decade have begun to express interest, to understand the condition and its causes and how to treat it properly. It is absolutely shocking the number of patients who are still told by their doctors that “nothing can be done”, that they will just have to learn to live with it. Fortunately, patients no longer need to suffer from neglect, effective treatment is now available. The swollen limb can be distinguished as venous, lymphatic or a combination of both. Before we treat the limb (s) the essence of clinical diagnosis is critical.
Venous insufficiency is commonly found in older patients with a wide range of causes. The most common characteristics is that venous related edema usually can be successfully treated and reduced permanently. Lymphatic insufficiency is chronic and will require therapy for the duration of the patient’s lifetime. The sooner lymphedema has been diagnosed and treated, the better the limb can be kept under control.
The course of lymphedema can be modified by intensive therapy at an early stage. Most patients can be satisfactorily treated with a non-invasive conservative approach, according to the European approach, with aggressive decongestive physiotherapy. This consists of Manual Lymphatic drainage, bandaging, Reid sleeve, education and proper skin care, diet and exercise. This method has been practiced in Europe for decades and slowly is being introduced into the United States. For more information, call the non-profit organization National Lymphedema Network at 1-800-541-3259 or fax your request to 415-921-4284.