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 to treat the swelling? Does the water pill cause you to urinate frequently, but your legs stay the same size? Or have you been going through chemotherapy and you have learned that one of the side effects is lymphedema? A certified lymphedema therapist will help you manage 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.
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.
How to Find a Lymphedema Therapist:
- Ask Around: Find a local Durable Medical Equipment (DME) provider who carries and fits for compression stockings. The fitters at the local DME see multiple patients from multiple therapists and should be able to supply you with unbiased recommendations.
- 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 the treatment of upper or lower limbs (arms or legs)?
- 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, (added comma) bringing your limb back down to its original size.
- Maintenance: The maintenance phase is the phase you will aspire to and hope to remain in. Because lymphedema is a chronic diagnosis, the management of the condition goes well beyond therapy. This may include daytime/nighttime compression garments, as well as pneumatic compression pumps. Since most CLTs do not measure, fit, or sell compression garments, it is a good idea to ask which DME company they work with to help you be fitted for the proper compression garments.