What is Lymphoedema ?

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that causes swelling from excessive amounts of fluid in the body. The condition usually affects the arms or legs, although it may also involve the trunk, breast, head and neck, or genital area.

The lymphatic system is made up of a network of lymph nodes and vessels throughout the body which transport fluid (lymph) from the tissues into the bloodstream. When this system is impaired, it is unable to efficiently drain this fluid, therefore causing swelling.

Types of lymphoedema:

Primary lymphoedema: caused by a genetic malformation of the lymphatic system. Swelling may not present until adolescence or early adulthood

Secondary lymphoedema: caused by damage or destruction of lymph nodes or lymphatic vessels. Can occur following surgery and/or radiotherapy related to cancer treatment, recurrent cellulitis, or following trauma.

There is no known cure for lymphoedema however, it can be managed with appropriate care. The aim for management is to reduce and control swelling, improve range of movement of the affected area, as well as prevent infection.

Treatment

We will provide an individualised assessment and care plan for patients with lymphoedema.

Management includes: education and skin care, gentle exercise, manual lymphatic drainage, and compression therapy.

Irish Martinez

Irish Martinez

Myotherapist/Lymphoedema Practitioner

Components of Complex Physical Therapy (CPT) provided by Lymphoedema Practitioner may include:

Compression Garments: these are firmly fitted elastic garments worn over the swollen areas. Research suggests that wearing a compression garment can help reduce swelling associated with lymphoedema. Compression garments generally need to be replaced every 6-12 months. Options include: stock, made-to-order, and custom garments

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD): specialised form of massage to the affected area. MLD aims to improve the way lymphatic vessels work and helps reduce the build-up of fluid. It includes slow gentle strokes that stimulate the flow of lymph from the affected area, through the remaining lymph vessels to nearby functional lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes.

Decongestive Exercises: assist with efficient flow of lymph fluid away from the affected area

Skin Care Advice: recommendations on appropriate skincare as it provides a barrier against infection. Reduces the likelihood of cellulitis

Compression Bandaging: two methods of bandaging can be used depending on the severity of the swelling and how much pressure needs to be applied. Bandaging is usually applied after MLD. These bandages can stay on between 2-7 days depending on what bandages are used. The aim is to help lymph fluid to drain and control fluid build-up until compression garments arrive.