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Terms to Know: Lymphedema and Wound Care

Practice Accelerator
May 31, 2019

Cellulitis: A common bacterial skin infection that appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender; also known as lymphangitis. Treatment should begin promptly to avoid having the infection spread rapidly and become life-threatening.

Complete decongestive therapy (CDT): The system of lymphedema treatment that includes manual lymph drainage (MLD), compression techniques, decongestive exercise, and self-care training.

Congenital lymphedema: A form of primary lymphedema that is present from birth; also known as Milroy's disease or Nonne-Milroy disease.

Lipedema: A condition that is more common in women and is characterized by progressive accumulation of abnormal fat that is painful to touch and bruises easily. Typically, fat accumulates symmetrically on the upper thighs (saddle bags) and extends to the lower legs but not the feet. The fat does not respond to diet or exercise.

Lymph drainage massage: The technique used by estheticians or massage therapists to stimulate lymph flow to enhance skin health in clients who are not affected by lymphedema.

Lymph nodes: Specialized structures connected to the lymphatic vessels that filter lymph before it is returned to the circulatory system. There are 500–700 lymph nodes throughout the adult body.

Lymphangiosarcoma: A rare malignant tumor that occurs in long-standing cases of lymphedema; also known as Stewart-Treves syndrome (STS).

Lymphedema: A condition that occurs when the lymphatic drainage system is impaired to the extent that the amount of lymphatic fluid within a given area exceeds the capacity of the lymphatic transport system to remove it.

Manual lymph drainage (MLD): Manipulation of the skin, subcutaneous structures, and lymph performed by a trained lymphedema therapist to stimulate the flow of lymph away from the affected area and back into the circulatory system.

Primary lymphedema (PLE): An inherited form of lymphedema that affects both males and females and can become noticeable at any time of life.

Secondary lymphedema (SLE): Lymphedema resulting from (secondary to) damage of the lymphatics caused by cancer treatment, surgery, burns, trauma, etc.

Stemmer sign or Stemmer's sign: A thickened skin fold at the base of the second toe or second finger that is a diagnostic sign for lymphedema. Stemmer sign is positive when this tissue cannot be lifted but can be grasped only as a lump of tissue; it is negative when it is possible to lift the tissue normally.


National Lymphedema Network. Accessed May 12, 2019. 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, HMP Global, its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.