By LOIS KINDLE
If you or someone in your family suffers from swelling in the arms, legs, head, neck or other areas in the body, there’s help in treating and managing it by certified therapists at Sun Towers.
It could very well be caused by lymphedema, a condition that occurs when the body’s lymphatic system no longer functions properly, due to a blockage that prevents lymph fluid from draining well, causing the fluid to build up and induce swelling. Under normal circumstances, the protein-rich lymph fluid circulates throughout the body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste products. It’s then returns to the lymph nodes, is filtered out and then flushed away.
Sun Towers’ physical therapy assistant Sherry Webb and licensed physical therapist Denise Holland are certified in lymphedema therapy and specialize in treating areas of the body below the neck. Their colleague Jessica Cripe, a speech language pathologist, is certified to treat head and neck lymphedema.
All three women treat patients with noninvasive and painless manual lymph therapy, which reduces swelling by using very light touch work below the skin level to promote lymph drainage. They also use various forms of compression in the form of bandages, garments and the like.
“The goal is to decrease the swelling by helping the body reabsorb proteins and water,” Webb said. “In addition to treatment, we provide exercises to help the body continue to do so. I also treat wounds that come along with lower body lymphedema.”
Cripe follows the same protocol but focuses solely on the head and neck.
“It’s important to find certified lymphedema specialists to ensure you receive proper care,” noted Vicky Kosky, director of rehabilitation for Sun Towers and Sun Terrace, adding her facility gets many referrals from Moffitt Cancer Center. “Depending on the stage it’s in, many people have lymphedema and don’t know it. A lot of them think it’s simply water retention.”
Typically, lymphedema results as an after-effect of surgery or radiation therapy for cancer.
Symptoms include swelling of the limbs, neck, head; a limited range of motion; aches and general discomfort; a feeling of heaviness or tightness; recurring infections; and hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis). If left untreated, serious complications can result. It can take months or even years for these symptoms to show up.
“Lymphedema is incurable,” Webb said. “Once you have it, it’s yours to own. That’s why it’s so important to get treatment, so it can be properly managed.”
For more information, call 813-634-3347. All forms of insurance are accepted.