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Martha Jefferson Monday: What is Lymphedema? - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Martha Jefferson Monday: What is Lymphedema?

Posted: Updated: July 31, 2012 01:08 PM EDT

To put it simply, lymphedema is a swelling disorder that occurs when the lymphatic system is overwhelmed.

"Lymphedema shows up as a lot of swelling and usually in a limb, but can also be in the trunk or abdomen," said Meg McIntire, an occupational therapist at Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Lymphedema is often seen in people who have circulatory problems, heart disease or in people who are overweight. In some cases, cancer can also lead to lymphedema if lymph nodes are damaged in surgery or with radiation treatment.

Symptoms include swelling, especially during the day, and arms or legs that feel overly heavy.

"It needs to be managed, and it can be managed usually, but it requires a life-long diligence," said McIntire.

The first step is to reduce the swelling.

"Patients usually come see us for about a month and during that time we're working on getting their limb smaller and then measuring them for a garment," continued McIntire.

The compression garments are then worn during day-to-day activity.

"The garment is worn during the day when the person is active and up and about because there arm or their leg in a dependent position, which means it's hanging below their heart typically and gravity is fighting to keep that swelling from coming back to where it needs to be able to drain out," said McIntire.

Although treatable, lymphedema is not curable, so taking care of the problem and making the necessary lifestyle changes is a crucial step in feeling better.

If you'd like more information on this topic, please call Health Connection at (434) 654-7009.

If you have a question you'd like to submit, email us at Healthquestions@nbc29.com.

Do you have health questions? Starting June 4, get the answers every Monday morning from the experts at Martha Jefferson Hospital in our new feature: Martha Jefferson Monday.

Jenn Downs will meet with the experts of Martha Jefferson Hospital and ask them your questions. You’ll see and hear the answers during NBC29 News at Sunrise every Monday morning.

Submit your questions now! Just click this link and write your question in the email. Then tune in every Monday morning during NBC29 News at Sunrise for Martha Jefferson Monday brought to you by NBC29 and Martha Jefferson Hospital.

 
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