It is a lifelong condition, and the number of people it affects is growing.
March 6 has been declared ‘Lymphedema Awareness Day’ by the city of Prince Albert, and organizers hope to educate more people about the often-unrecognized condition.
“Lymphedema affects an estimated one million people in Canada. According to researchers, as much as 70 per cent of lymphedema goes undiagnosed,” said Verna Schneider, past president of the Lymphedema Association of Saskatchewan.
There are two types of lymphedema: the primary cases occur when a person is born with a faulty lymphatic system, and the secondary cases occur when a person’s lymphatic system is damaged by surgery, severe trauma, radiation or other things. Swelling from the buildup of fluid most often happens in the arms or legs, but can occur in the breasts, trunk, genitals or head and neck. According to the Lymphedema Association, the condition often causes decreased mobility and repeated episodes of infection, and can lead to general worsening of the patient’s life and health.
Schneider, who has lymphedema, said her condition is manageable but not everyone is so lucky.
“It has varying degrees and can worsen if it isn’t treated,” she said, “but mine is controllable.”
Schneider said the best way to treat Lymphedema is through Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which consists of manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging and education on condition management. This specialized treatment, Schneider noted, is not readily available for patients in Prince Albert.
“There are no CDT therapists in Prince Albert … and if you see a private therapist somewhere else there is no government coverage for that at this time,” Schneider said.
As the number of people affected by the condition grows, Schneider said the association is lobbying to get more coverage for patients.
The awareness day in March will mark the National Lymphedema Network’s 30th anniversary and its 24th annual event to honor lymphedema patients, caregivers and therapists and educate the public about treatment, coverage and support for the condition.
On Twitter: @princealbertnow
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