Healthwatch

Perhaps it's you or you know someone or you've seen pictures of someone with an arm or leg that is dramatically larger than the other. This difference is caused by swelling in a limb or other body part. The condition is called lymphedema.

Lymphedema is a chronic disease that will never completely go away, however, it can be treated. It's caused by a disturbance within one of the fluid carriers in the body, the lymphatic system.

Two years ago Rellie Mae Williams from Meridian was diagnosed with the disorder, which is affecting her right arm.

"Her arm was about twice the size it is now," says William's sister Penny Dickey.

When Williams was diagnosed, there was not a specialist for this disorder in Meridian. However, that has changed and lymphedema therapist Jill Brady with Rush Hospital is now treating Williams with a daily, hour-long therapy, which stretches the skin.

"I stretch the skin in the direction I want the fluid to go," says Brady.

While therapy treatment for patients with more mild cases of lymphedema such as Miss Williams might last two weeks, healthcare officials say for patients with much more severe cases the amount of therapy can last much longer.

During the time the patient is undergoing the daily skin stretching therapy, Brady says the patient must wear the limb covered by a thick 'cast-like' bandage.

However, once the daily skin treatment is complete, the patient must switch to wearing a thick, stretchy, 'stocking-like' material on the limb. In order to keep the swelling down healthcare officials say the compression garment, as it is called, must be worn throughout the patients lifetime.

For more information on lymphedema and available treatments call (601) 703-4240.

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