Lymphedema Therapy Services

Living with Lymphedema

When body tissue becomes swollen, it causes discomfort and sometimes pain. For people who live with a condition known as lymphedema, coping with swollen tissue and its effects can be a day-to-day challenge. This can have a significant impact on lifestyle, self-image, and physical and emotional well-being.

Understanding Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a disorder of the lymphatic system, which is part of the circulatory system. One purpose of the lymphatic system is to collect fluids from tissue and return those fluids to our bloodstream. The lymphatic system also removes excess protein and bacteria from tissue and produces lymphocytes (disease fighting cells) for our immune system.

For some people, the lymphatic system fails to adequately remove fluids and proteins from the tissue. These fluids accumulate in the tissue spaces producing chronic swelling in a portion of the body (most often an arm, leg or pelvis).

Lymphedema can occur following cancer treatment or after an injury. It may also be a congenital condition.

Treating Lymphedema

Early and proper treatment for lymphedema is very important in order to reduce symptoms and control the condition. While lymphedema is seldom cured, a combination of treatment and self-management techniques will contribute significantly to reducing swelling and controlling other side effects. There are a number of techniques used to control lymphedema.

These techniques include:

  • Lymphatic drainage massage
  • Compression bandaging
  • Compression pumps
  • Compression garments
  • Exercise
  • Education
  • Dietary considerations

If left untreated, lymphedema is progressive and can result in conditions that interfere with wound healing and increase the potential for infection. When swelling and inflammation persist, the tissue can become thick and hard. This can limit the movement of the limb and make symptoms and side effects worse.

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Lymphedema Program

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s lymphedema program focuses on providing individualized treatment to minimize symptoms, restore movement and maximize comfort. In addition, each patient is taught techniques that help manage and control his or her condition.

Ascension Columbia St. Mary's rehabilitation team is made up of qualified staff of physical and occupational therapists are certified in the treatment of lymphedema.

Taking the Next Step

If you or your physician have a concern about swelling or possible lymphedema, please call to schedule an appointment. A physician’s order is needed for evaluation and treatment of lymphedema.

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee
2301 N. Lake Dr.
Milwaukee | 53211

Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee
13111 N. Port Washington Rd.
Mequon | 53097

Van Dyke Cancer Center Milwaukee
Water Tower Medical Commons
2350 N. Lake Dr.
Milwaukee | 53211



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