May 17, 2017
Lymphedema one of Several Therapy Services Available at Ascension’s Howard Young Medical Center
Lymphedema is a chronic inflammatory condition where the buildup of protein-rich fluids in soft body tissues causes swelling, often in the arms or legs. It occurs when the lymphatic system is either faulty or damaged. Lymphedema is frequently misdiagnosed, which causes the condition to be treated either late or not to be treated at all.
Lymphedema is common complication after surgery or may be brought on by contributing factors like cancer treatment, trauma or a fall. It is a chronic condition that develops slowly and can be treated. The sooner treatment is started, the more effective the treatment can be.
“Lymphedema can develop in any part of the body,” said Judith Jennings, an occupational therapist and one of three certified lymphedema therapists at Howard Young Medical Center, part of Ascension. “It has common symptoms like persistent swelling in the arm or leg (including fingers/toes); heaviness or tightness in the limb; decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist, or ankle; skin feeling tight or difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area, thick or hardened skin, impaired sensation and a decreased ability to perform self-care tasks.”
Several years ago Tammy Steg of Arbor Vitae first experienced symptoms of lymphedema. “I noticed my legs were red hot and swollen and knew something was wrong,” said Steg. After bringing it to the attention of her primary care clinician and completing therapy, she had the condition under control until experiencing an exacerbation of her symptoms last December.
Since the initial evaluation, Jennings has worked with Steg to develop an individualized treatment plan that includes manual lymphatic treatment, medical compression bandaging, exercise, education on skin care and diet as well as daily management strategies.
“We make a great team and I am grateful for Judith’s persistence and support to keep me focused in order to keep things under control,” said Steg. “She has given me many tools to successfully implement daily strategies and realizing the other benefits of therapy to improve my mobility.”
Lymphedema can occur at any age. People can be born with abnormalities in the lymphatic system which is primary Lymphedema. With this, swelling can be present at birth or may develop later in life. Most lymphedema in the U.S. is Secondary Lymphedema which occurs from damage to the lymphatic system, such as with cancer, radiation, burns, infections, surgery or trauma. Nearly seven million Medicare-aged persons in the United States have, or are at risk for lymphedema.
“The risk of developing lymphedema does not diminish over time but is a lifelong risk” said Jennings. “Over time, if untreated – or poorly treated – lymphedema can lead to complications including recurrent infections, non-healing wounds, disfigurement, pain, decreased limb function, difficulty with daily living tasks, and emotional and social distress.”
For more information about the team of certified lymphedema therapists or other rehabilitation services available at Howard Young Medical Center, please call 715.356.8870.
About Ascension Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, Ascension operates 24 hospitals and hundreds of related healthcare facilities that together employ more than 23,500 associates. Across the state, Ascension provided more than $230 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2016. Serving Wisconsin for 169 years, Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. Ascension is the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, operating 2,500 sites of care – including 141 hospitals and more than 30 senior living facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Visit ascension.org/wisconsin.
Ascension (ascension.org) is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. As the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all, with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. In FY2016, Ascension provided more than $1.8 billion in care of persons living in poverty and other community benefit programs. Ascension includes approximately 150,000 associates and 36,000 aligned providers. Ascension’s Healthcare Division operates 2,500 sites of care – including 141 hospitals and more than 30 senior living facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia, while its Solutions Division provides a variety of services and solutions including physician practice management, venture capital investing, investment management, biomedical engineering, facilities management, clinical care management, information services, risk management, and contracting through Ascension’s own group purchasing organization.