FAQ's About Lymphedema

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) - Lymphedema Program

1. What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a collection of protein rich lymphatic fluid. The swelling can be progressive in the part of the body effected. It essentially has two origins, one would be a malformation of vessels that the individual is born with. This primary lymphedema may not appear till teenage or young adulthood. The other possible origin is secondary to an event that has compromised or damaged the lymphatic system in a region of the body.

2. How do I know if I have lymphedema?

  • You may experience symptoms that include
  • Persistent swelling
  • A feeling of "heaviness" in a body part
  • Tightening of the skin
  • Hardening of the limb
  • Decreased flexibility and function

3. Who is at risk?

Hundreds of thousands of people in the US have lymphedema. If someone in your immediate family has primary lymphedema, it is possible you are prone to it. Others at risk include anyone who has had a direct damage to the lymphatic system including those with various treatments for cancer. Obesity can increase one's likelihood of developing lymphedema.

4. Can I prevent it?


There are safe practices if you are at risk that include careful hygiene, avoidance of trauma, avoidance of insect bites.

5. Can it spread? How bad can it get?


Generally lymphedema does not exceed the boundaries of the region it is in. The severity and its effects on the tissues can increase to the point of fibrotic tissue change. There can be complications, the most common of which is infection, usually cellulites. It is important to gain control of the edema and limit or stop its progression.

6. How is lymphedema treated?


Each person's program will vary and may require some or all components of the program.. The Greater Baltimore Lymphedema and Rehabilitation Center employs a highly effective European based treatment called Comprehensive Decongestive Therapy. 

  • Phase one evaluation, patient education, skin care, manual lymph drainage, compression wraps, scar management, exercises and functional activity may be part of phase one
  • Phase two is the adherence to a self management program to continue to control the swelling and may include wearing of compression sleeves or stockings or face compression straps and will include continued vigilance to prevent increases in swelling. It includes periodic follow-up visits with the team.

7. Is treatment covered by insurance?


Treatment for Lymphedema is approved for reimbursement to Medicare, most managed care organizations and most private commercial carriers. Referrals are accepted directly from individual with lymphedema, cancer support groups, acute care and rehabilitation hospitals, home health agencies,physicians, case managers, therapists and concerned family and friends. The Greater Baltimore Lymphedema and Rehabilitation Center will assist patients in obtaining necessary insurance authorizations for therapy.

Greater Baltimore Medical Center | 6701 North Charles Street | Baltimore, MD 21204 | (443) 849-2000 | TTY (800) 735-2258
© 2014  GBMC. This website is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with a professional healthcare provider.