What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is the swelling of a body part, most often an arm, leg or other body part, caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid. Lymphedema can also occur in the face, neck, abdomen and lungs. It can be both disfiguring and debilitating.

Patients can experience swollen body parts/limbs, a worsening condition, repeated infections, thickening skin, altered lifestyle (no heat or sun) and constant medical care and expenses.

Causes of lymphedema may be present at birth or occur later in life. Secondary causes are most often the result of injury, scarring or the removal of lymph nodes. This usually occurs as the result of radiation and/or surgery associated with cancer. Other secondary lymphedema can be the result of trauma, recurrent tumor, infection, or a blood clot. Lymphedema can also occur as a complication with other disorders such as venous insufficiency.

About Our Program

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center’s Lymphedema Program is a gentle non-surgical and highly effective combination of the following techniques:

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)

MLD is a gentle manual massage treatment that improves the function of the lymphatic system throughout the body. MLD reroutes lymph fluid around blocked or damaged areas to decrease swelling in the affected area.


The lymphatic system is stimulated by using muscle contraction as a pump for the lymph vessels. Patients will be instructed on exercises to reduce edema which may be done while wearing the compression bandages to maximize lymph drainage.


Bandaging provides constant gentle pressure, helping to maintain the reduction of swelling achieved during MLD treatment. Bandaging is done daily while the limb size is changing.

Skin Care

Good hygiene and skin care is essential to eliminate bacterial and fungal growth and prevent infection within the body part.

Custom fitted compression garments

Once fluid reduction is achieved, you may receive custom compression garments for long term use to maintain circulation.

Signs and Symptoms

Sometimes you can feel lymphedema before you can see it. Your fingers or arms might feel swollen or stiff. It might be hard to remove jewelry or your arm might feel heavy. Even minor swelling with little pain needs to be treated to avoid chronic infection. If you suspect you have lymphedema, tell your doctor immediately. Your doctor will be able to diagnose lymphedema and help you receive the best treatment. Fort Walton Beach Medical Center has a comprehensive lymphedema therapy program that can help you manage your symptoms so you can resume your normal active lifestyle.

Benefits of Treatment

  • Decreased pain/discomfort
  • Decreased fibrotic hardening
  • Decreased edema (swelling)
  • Enhanced self-esteem and independence
  • Education in self management and home program
  • Prevention of infection
  • Improved mobility and range of motion