COVID-19 Update: All programs are currently being held virtually. Read More

Lymphedema

By: Beth Bennett

Lymphedema refers to the swelling and/or pain that occurs when the normal drainage of fluid is disrupted by a blockage or a cut in the lymph nodes in the groin area or the armpit. Lymphedema can be a hereditary condition, but it's most commonly the result of blockages caused by infection, cancer, and scar tissue from radiation therapy or the surgical removal of lymph nodes (*).

If you notice any swelling, tightness of skin or discomfort in the area where you had surgery or received radiation, please contact your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with lymphedema, there are specialists who can help reduce the swelling and discomfort (see resources below).

Potential Red Flags for lymphedema (*)

  • Swelling in your arms, legs, shoulders, hands, fingers, or chest
  • Skin that feels tighter, harder, or thicker than normal in the affected area
  • Aching or a feeling of heaviness in your arm or leg
  • Weakness in your arm or leg
  • Inability to move certain joints, such as your wrist or ankle, as freely as usual
  • "Pitting" in the tissues of your limb (an indentation that is made by pressing a finger on the skin that takes time to "fill in" after the pressure is removed)
  • Clothing, rings, bracelets, or shoes that fit tighter than before
  • Repeated infections in your arm or leg
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty doing your daily activities

The library at The Gathering Place has several books about lymphedema that can be borrowed, including:

Coping with Lymphedema by Joan Swirsky
Living Well With Lymphedema by Ann Ehrlich
Lymphedema by Sam Donaldson
Lymphedema A Breast Cancer Patient's Guide to Prevention and Healing by Gwen White

Websites with Useful Information:

The National Lymphedema Network

  • A website with information on prevention and treatment. They sell a bracelet that identifies you as someone who should not have blood drawn or blood pressure taken on the affected arm.
  • The National Lymphedema Network

The American Physical Therapy Association

Local Treatment for Lymphedema

University Hospitals

  • University Hospitals has a pamphlet with information about treatment and information on making an appointment with a lymphedema specialists at all of their locations.
  • Click here to view the University Hospitals informational pamphlet.

The Cleveland Clinic Hospitals

  • Cleveland Clinic locations have two types of lymphedema specialists: one group of breast cancer related lymphedema specialists and one group of therapists who treat all lymphedema.
  • To schedule an appointment with a specialist, call 216-444-6262 after you have receive a prescription from your doctor for treatment.

MetroHealth System

  • MetroHealth professionals provide services to help prevent and treat lymphedema.
  • Call them at 216-778-4414 for more information.

Southwest General

  • Lifeworks of Southwest General, 7390 Old Oak Blvd.
  • 440-816-8010

St. John Medical Center

  • Lymphedema prevention and management, outpatient therapy
  • 26908 Detroit Rd., Suite 300, Westlake, 440-414-6050

Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center of Menorah Park

The Peter B. Lewis Aquatic & Therapy Center has a specialist with a doctorate in occupational therapy who is additionally certified in the prevention and treatment of lymphedema and is also certified in the treatment of upper extremity and hand conditions. Conveniently located at 27300 Cedar Road in Beachwood, OH. Call 216-595-7345 for an appointment.