Mahaska Health Partnership Explains Lymphedema Treatment

Mahaska Health Partnership

MAHASKA COUNTY – Lymphedema refers to chronic swelling that usually occurs in an arm or leg. Mahaska Health Partnership Certified Lymphedema Therapist Lauren Terpstra, DPT explains how the condition arises and ways to treat it.

Lymphedema is common after having lymph nodes removed or damaged. “When you are diagnosed with cancer, it’s common to have lymph nodes removed for testing or damaged during treatment,” Terpstra explained. “You’re perfectly capable of living without them, but missing one can throw off your lymphatic system and lead to the buildup of fluid, causing swelling.”

Common signs of lymphedema include swelling in one or both arms or legs, but can also be present in the trunk or face, and does not go away over time. “When your limbs swell, they will feel heavy or tight,” Terpstra shared. “The expansion can also limit your range of motion and cause discomfort. Frequent infections and hardening of the skin can also occur.”

Along with cancer, there are additional causes of this condition. “Surgery that damages or removes a lymph node can cause lymphedema,” Terpstra said. “An infection can also affect your lymphatic system. Risk factors including age, obesity and chronic venous insufficiency also increase your risk.”

Though there’s no cure for lymphedema, treatment can help make the symptoms manageable. “If you notice persistent swelling, it’s a good idea to talk to your primary care provider and figure out the cause so it can be treated,” Terpstra encouraged. “Radiologic imaging can show if there’s a blockage in your system and help determine the best course of treatment.”

One type of treatment is exercises to help you perform daily tasks like grocery shopping. “These focus on gently contracting the muscles in your affected limb and are not strenuous,” Terpstra explained. “By moving the muscles a certain way, the fluid is able to drain out of the affected limb and lessen swelling.

“Wrapping the area is another way to aid in reducing swelling,” Terpstra continued. Our lymphedema specialists are trained in specialized manual drainage and compression garment wrapping, which helps move fluid from the swollen area.”

Mahaska Health Partnership has multiple lymphedema specialists available to help treat this condition. “We can show you exercises and wrap techniques to help minimize swelling and discomfort,” Terpstra said. “Our goal is to help you continue living a normal life with the least amount of interruption as possible. Though there’s no cure, there are plenty of treatment options to minimize the effect this condition has on your life.”

Lauren Terpstra has been a member of MHP’s Physical and Occupational Therapy team since 2008. She is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist and enjoys helping patients find relief from swelling and other symptoms of the condition. In her free time, Lauren likes spending time with her husband and two children. Talk to your primary care provider about scheduling an appointment with a therapist at MHP today.

Mahaska Health Partnership, located in Oskaloosa, is a non-profit health system accredited by the Joint Commission. It is guided by its mission to provide exceptional customer service and health improvement, linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. For more information about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, visit



Posted by on Jul 23 2017. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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