Lymph nodes are part of the body's immune system, responsible for fighting infections and filtering the blood. But when the lymphatic system becomes overloaded because of damage or disease, the fluid can accumulate and lead to a condition called lymphedema, a swelling of the affected area. Although lymphedema most commonly affects the arms and legs, it can develop anywhere in the body.
"To treat lymphedema," says Community Hospital's Lucy Gomez, physical therapy assistant, "we use comprehensive physical therapy. Included in that is a massage technique that directs the fluid up and out of the limb toward the heart."
If the lymphedema is significant, patients wear a multilayered bandage or compression garment over the area, helping to move the fluid out of the limb.