UC San Diego Health System provides comprehensive and compassionate rehabilitation services for patients with lymphedema.
Our occupational therapists are certified lymphedema therapists (CLTs) with years of experience, knowledge and specialized training.
What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition that causes swelling of a body part, usually an arm or a leg, but may also affect the face, neck, breast, abdomen or genitals. The swelling occurs when a protein-enriched fluid accumulates outside of the lymphatic system. This accumulation can occur in two ways:
Primary lymphedema occurs without any obvious cause. It may be present at birth due to improper development of the lymphatic system. Primary lymphedema occurs more frequently in women than men. The lower extremities are most commonly affected.
Secondary lymphedema can develop as a result of surgery, radiation, infection or trauma. Specific surgeries, such as surgery for melanoma, breast, gynecological, head and neck, prostate, testicular, bladder or colon cancer put patients at risk for developing secondary lymphedema.
Symptoms of lymphedema can include tightness, swelling, fullness and numbness of any part of the body. Progressive symptoms include hardening of the skin, leakage of lymph fluid from affected extremity, and occasionally, massive swelling of the extremity.
Our program can help:
- Decrease lymphedema (fluid build-up) and infection
- Promote wound healing
- Decrease fibrotic tissue hardening
- Increase functional mobility and quality of life
Have you had surgery for cancer of the breast, head and neck, cervix, uterus, prostate or skin?
Have you had chemotherapy or radiation treatment?
Does your arm, leg, face or trunk tire easily, especially with activity?
Does your arm or leg seem larger than the other limb?
Have you noticed discomfort at the shoulder, elbow, knee, ankle, face, neck or trunk?
Does your skin feel too tight?
Are the joints of your hand, knee or ankle less flexible?
Have you had a recent infection?
Did a recent airplane flight cause swelling or tightness in your arm or leg?
If you answered "yes" to two or more of these questions, you may be appropriate for lymphedema treatment.
Programs and Services
- Complete decongestive therapy
- Manual lymph drainage
- Home program
- Active range of motion, stretching and strengthening exercises
- Self-massage for lymph drainage
- Patient and family education
- Precautions and skin care
- Referral to community services and vendors