Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs.

It develops when the lymphatic system does not work properly. 

foot being bandaged by doctor

Symptoms of Lymphoedema

The main symptom of lymphoedema is swelling in all or part of a limb or another part of the body. It can be difficult to fit into clothes, and jewelry and watches can feel tight.

At first, the swelling may come and go. It may get worse during the day and go down overnight. Without treatment, it will usually become more severe and persistent.

Other symptoms in an affected body part can include:

  • an aching, heavy feeling
  • difficulty with movement
  • repeated skin infections
  • hard, tight skin
  • folds developing in the skin
  • wart-like growths developing on the skin
  • fluid leaking through the skin

Diagnosis

If you are at risk of lymphoedema — for instance, if you’ve recently had cancer surgery involving your lymph nodes — your doctor may diagnose lymphedema based on your signs and symptoms.

Primary lymphoedema is the result of an anatomical abnormality of the lymph vessels and is a rare, inherited condition.

Secondary lymphoedema results from an identifiable damage to or obstruction of normally functioning lymph vessels and nodes.

Treatments

Compression treatments can help reduce swelling and prevent scarring and other complications. Examples of compression treatments are:

Elastic sleeves or stockings: These must fit properly and provide gradual compression from the end of the extremity toward the trunk.

Bandages: Bandages that are wrapped more tightly around the end of the extremity and wrapped more loosely toward the trunk, to encourage lymph flow out of the extremity toward the center of the body.

Pneumatic compression devices: These are sleeves or stockings connected to a pump that provides sequential compression from the end of the extremity toward the body. These may be used in the clinic or in the home and are useful in preventing long-term scarring, but they cannot be used in all individuals, such as those with congestive heart failure, deep venous thrombosis, or certain infections.

Manual compression: Massage techniques, known as manual lymph drainage, can be useful for some people with lymphedema.

Exercises: Exercises that lightly contract and stimulate arm or leg muscles may be prescribed by the doctor or physical therapist to help stimulate lymph flow.

Lymph fluoroscopy

Lymph fluoroscopy myapping shows up problems with the flow of lymph after lymph node treatment. Treatments like surgery or radiotherapy can change the way lymph fluid usually drains.

Mapping your lymphatics might help you to have a better response to MLD. Your lymphoedema specialist will see the unique problems you have with the flow of lymph, especially in the area where you had cancer treatment. They can then work out an individual treatment plan for you.

Speak with the clinic Today

Call: 01491 756015

On the day

What happens on the day?

You will usually be seen by Jane Wigg for an initial consultation, involving a discussion of your lymphoedema history and assessment. At this point we will explain the procedure, discuss any questions you may have and confirm your consent for us to carry out the procedure.

Following the consultation, the fluoroscopy involves injecting a tiny amount of indocyanine (ICG) into the swollen area, usually a hand or foot. We use a near infrared camera to watch the initial uptake of the tracer into the lymphatics, this should take around 20 minutes. At this point, we may be able to see your immediate drainage pathways, which we ‘map’ on the skin with a skin-safe marker. This is followed by the ‘wait-time’ as it can take around 4 hours for the tracer to move through the damaged lymphatics. We will ask you to return at any agreed time later in the day. This protocol helps us to ensure that we can fully map all affected areas. There is no reason why during this time you could not go about all usual activities, such as driving, walking, eating etc.

When you return for the mapping, we will use the camera again and this time map the lymphatics fully. We use the skin-marker to denote areas of oedema, nodes, and related lymphatic findings. These markings will make up an FG-MLD plan which will be sent to you to assist in yourself lymphatic drainage (SLD) but it can also be shared with your lymphoedema clinic or MLD therapist.

Lymphoedema FAQ

is all swelling lymphoedema?

Swelling is very common after surgery as it is part of the healing process, however, there are many other reasons why swelling may develop. If you have swelling and are concerned, contact your hospital doctor for advice.

Does lymphoedema mean the cancer has returned?

Even though recurrent cancer can cause lymphedema, do not worry if you do have an area of swelling as it could be a few reasons. Contact your hospital doctor if you are concerned.

is it safe to exercise with lymphoedema? Wont it swell more if i exercise?

It is safe to exercise with lymphedema if you wear your compression bandages or garments. Exercising may help reduce the swelling and flare ups of the lymphedema under the supervision of a lymphedema therapist.

are there any medications i can take to reduce swelling?

No, there are no approved medications to manage lymphedema.

How do i book an appointment?

If you want to book an appointment, please call us on 01491 756015 or email us at info@healthiumclinics.com

What do i need to prepare for my first appointment?

You will need to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to your appointment time to complete some paperwork including a treatment consent form.

Bring your specialist contact and referral (if applicable).

If you are using or have previously used any compression garments, bring these along to your appointment.

Contact us

Call Us

01491 756015

Email Us

info@healthiumclinics.com

Our Location

Garden Cottage, Badgemore Park
Henley-On-Thames, RG9 4NR

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