Published on: March 25, 2020
How Do I Find a Lymphedema Therapist?
Did your legs start swelling and your doctor prescribed you a water pill? Does the water pill make you have to pee all the time, but your legs stay the same size? Or have you been going through chemotherapy and you learned one of the side effects is lymphedema? A certified lymphedema therapist will help you with your lymphedema.
Getting a diagnosis of lymphedema can be jarring. Lymphedema is a localized swelling of the body due to an abnormal accumulation of lymphatic fluid. Lymphatic fluid is protein-rich, carrying white blood cells throughout your body to fight off infection. Thus, the fluid is thicker, making it much more difficult to move throughout your body when your lymphatic system is compromised rather than just retaining water in your body.
When you receive a diagnosis, a simple Google search can be misleading. You may be referred to a Vein Specialist, who may not have a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) in their health network.
Ways to Find A lymphedema therapist:
- Ask Around: Find a local Durable Medical Equipment Provider (DME) who carries and fits for compression stockings. The fitters at the local DME see multiple patients from multiple therapists and will give you unbiased feedback.
- Browse the web. Here are some resources that can help you find a qualified CLT in your area:
- Use social media. There are multiple Facebook Groups and information on other social media platforms. This will connect you to other patients with the same diagnosis and get you first-hand knowledge from someone who has seen a lymphedema therapist.
When choosing a CLT, here are some important questions to ask:
- How long have you been treating patients with Lymphedema?
- Do you specialize in upper or lower limb (arms or legs) treatment?
- What does the treatment plan look like under your care?
It is important to note that most insurance companies have a restriction on the number of visits you have for therapy. When choosing a therapist, it is important to work with one who can walk you through the treatment plan and give you a plan of what treatment looks like along the way. There are three phases to manage your lymphedema:
- Evaluate/Diagnostic: Lymphedema is defined in three stages- Stage 0 (mild), Stage 2 (moderate) and Stage 3 (severe). An effective diagnosis will help in the following of the next two phases.
- Decongestive: This phase works on the process of getting your arm/leg closer to its original size. This may include compression wrapping, pneumatic compression pumps, Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), or certain Velcro wraps that help remove the lymphatic fluid bringing your limb back to its original size.
- Maintenance: The maintenance phase is the phase you should hope to remain in. Because lymphedema is a chronic diagnosis, the management goes well beyond therapy. This may also include pneumatic compression pumps, but also includes daytime/nighttime compression garments. Since most CLTs do not measure, fit or sell compression garments, ask who they work with to help you be fitted for the proper compression garments.