Educate to Increase Early Identification of Lymphedema
Lymphedema, a complex medical condition affecting one or more limbs of the body, can present additional challenges for people at risk who live in smaller communities, in that they are likely not surrounded by enough general providers and medical staff who know how to appropriately identify and treat it. This can create an under-served population and situations where patients are identified less quickly and at later stages.
“Many of our lymphedema patients come to us for different diagnoses, and it is then that we identify the swelling and advise that they could see improvement from therapy,” says Rehab Director Jennifer Fuentes, PT.
Increase the likelihood of identifying at-risk/early-stage patients by educating both local physicians and the general community. For trained lymphedema specialists especially, it is imperative to promote the skills you have to provide treatment to this population. Education can extend to nursing staff and any other potential referral sources.
For patients with lymphedema it is important for therapists to identify symptoms early on and begin treatment. Lymphedema is a progressive, often-debilitating condition if left untreated. But even patients initially receiving treatment in moderate-to-severe stages will benefit from physical therapy.
“Patients come in for that first appointment and they are in really bad shape. For example, they may not have pants or shoes that fit them well, and may not be able to walk because they are so debilitated from a heavy leg,” says Jennifer. “Even those really involved patients can see dramatic improvement.”
“Truly, the worse their legs ever have to look is the first day they walk into our therapy room. As long as patients continue with treatment and manage their condition, lymphedema can be managed long-term without it progressing.”
In a recent study, researchers asserted that cases of lymphedema are on the rise, and estimated that more than 121,000 people experience lymphedema out of a cancer population near 10 million. Read the research article here.