Lymphedema Management and Treatment

What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema​ is a condition in which swelling (edema) occurs from abnormal accumulation of protein-rich lymph fluid in the space between cells in the body.

Swelling develops in one (or both) of your arms and legs when a blockage occurs in the lymphatic system that prevents fluid from draining well, which results in swelling. Though there is no cure for lymphedema, our UPMC rehabilitation specialists will work with you to treat and manage your lymphedema.

What Causes Lymphedema?

The most common cause of lymphedema is damage to or the removal of lymph nodes due to cancer. In addition to damage or removal, the causes of fluid buildup may include:

  • Certain cancer medications (such as tamoxifen)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Obesity
  • Infection
  • Deficiency in the lymphatic system

What Are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?

Symptoms of lymphedema often include tightness of clothing, rings, or watches and a feeling of fullness around your arms and legs.

Lymphedema Treatment Options

There are various components to the treatment and management of lymphedema. Our highly trained therapists — many of whom are certified by the Lymphology Association of North America — are experts in the treatment of lymphedema, using the complete decongestive therapy method.

What is complete decongestive therapy for lymphedema?

Complete decongestive therapy (CDT) for lymphedema is a comprehensive program that combines the following listed treatments for a holistic approach to treat lymphedema. Two phases of this treatment include an active phase to bring your lymphedema under control followed by a maintenance phase.

Lymphedema management typically includes

  • Manual lymph drainage: Also known as lymphatic massage, manual lymph drainage is a specific, gentle technique that uses precise hand movements to increase fluid circulation throughout your body. Manual lymph drainage for lymphedema reduces swelling and pain often associated with swelling.
  • Compression bandaging: Compression bandaging (or wrapping) is performed by a trained therapist who wraps several layers of short stretch bandages and padding around the affected limb. Bandaging reduces the size of the limb through pressure and promotes an internal pumping action that pushes fluid back into the lymphatic system and out of your tissue.
  • Exercise: Exercise is an important component in the management of lymphedema. Under the supervision of a therapist you will gradually increase exercise for the affected limb. By slowly increasing activity, the affected limb becomes decongested and can handle greater levels of stress.
  • Self-Management: Self-management is the overarching term that describes everything you can do to manage your lymphedema at home. Therapists teach you how to apply bandages or compression wear and specific exercises to reduce the chance of your lymphedema returning to its pre-treatment form.

Read more about the experiences from patients who received lymphedema management service​​​​s at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services.

Locations for Lymphedema Treatment

Location Phone Address
Altoona Station
Medical Center
​814-889-3900 1516 9th Ave
Altoona, PA  16602
​Beaver ​724-728-4545 550 Corporation Street
Beaver, PA 15009
​Bedford 814-623-3510 CRS-Bedford
10455 Lincoln Highway
Everett, PA 15537
​Butler - North Main ​724-285-5546 ​1615 B North Main Street Ext.
Butler, PA 16001
​Castle Shannon ​412-854-5077 ​3754 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15234
Chapel Harbor ​412-781-0602 ​CRS-UPMC St. Margaret
Park Place at Chapel Harbor,
Suite 200
Cranberry Township 724-720-3050 UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
8000 Cranberry Springs Drive
Cranberry Township, PA 16066
Delmont 724-468-4541 Salem Place, Suite 100
6530 Route 22
Delmont, PA 15626
Erie - West 26th Street ​814-452-4447 1325 West 26th St.
Erie, PA 16508
Gibsonia 724-449-2100 Northtowne Square
5600 William Flynn Highway
Gibsonia, PA 15044
Greenville 724-588-3001 26 Conneaut Lake Road
Greenville, PA 16125
Hermitage 724-347-6660 Hermitage Crossing
1115 N. Hermitage Road
Hermitage, PA 16148
McCandless 412-630-9750 9365 McKnight Road, Suite 300
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
Monroeville​ ​412-692-9423​ ​Corporate One Office Park
Building One, Suite 200
4055 Monroeville Boulevard
Monroeville, PA 15146
Moon Township 412-269-7062 UPMC West
1600 Coraopolis Heights Road
Coraopolis, PA 15108
​New Castle - Nesbitt Place ​724-658-2801 26 Nesbitt Road, Suite 153
New Castle, PA 16105
North Strabane​ ​724-229-5260 UPMC of Washington Meadowpointe
470 Johnson Road, Suite 110
Washington, PA 15301​
Oakland 412-692-4305 CRS Oakland
Kaufmann Medical Building,
Suite 1201
3471 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Seneca ​814-678-4656 100 Fairfield Drive
Seneca, PA 16346
South Hills 412-851-8850 UPMC South Hills, Suite 1400
1300 Oxford Drive
Bethel Park, PA 15102
Squirrel Hill 412-422-4775 2345 Murray Ave., Suite 300
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

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