March 6, 2021 marks the 6th annual celebration of World Lymphedema Day.
The purpose of this recognition is to raise awareness about lymphedema and other lymphatic conditions across the globe.
What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a chronic swelling condition that affects one or more parts of the body.
Lymphedema can either be primary (hereditary) or result from a secondary cause.
In the United States the leading cause of lymphedema is breast cancer treatment. However, any types of cancer treatment can contribute to the cause of lymphedema. Other causes may include trauma, infection, obesity and venous insufficiency.
Worldwide, the most common cause of lymphedema is a mosquito born parasitic infection known as lymphatic filariasis. There are approximately 120 million people across 72 tropical and subtropical countries that are affected.
Physical and/or Occupational Therapy are the gold standards in treatment for lymphedema. In order to reduce swelling in the limb(s) or other body parts, Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) will be performed. This treatment technique includes a specialized massage known as Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), compression wrapping and eventually fitting for a compression garment, skin care education and lymphatic uptake exercises.
Currently there is no cure for lymphedema. However, this condition can be managed with compression garments, proper skin care and maintaining a healthy BMI with proper nutrition and exercise.
Many people with lymphedema find that properly managing their condition can put them in a significant financial burden. Unfortunately, compression garments are not covered by many insurance companies. The average cost of one custom thigh high compression garment is $960. Compression garments last approximately 6 months before needing to be replaced.
When lymphedema is not properly managed and swelling gets out of control it can lead to significant changes in the skin. Many individuals develop infections and wounds at this stage.
Please consider advocating for those with lymphedema by signing the Lymphedema Treatment Act in order to improve insurance coverage for medically necessary compression garments.