Lymphoedema is a swelling that affects any part of the body, although it is most commonly seen in legs or arms. If the lymph system is under developed or is damaged or becomes blocked there is a build up of fluid, protein and toxins in the surrounding area. The limb will become swollen and will feel heavy and can often ache. The skin will become dry and thickened and can also dis-colour.

Lymphoedema can be described as Primary or Secondary

Primary Lymphoedema is either congenital or spontaneous, it is a result of an inherited abnormality of the lymphatic and venous system. Lymphoedema may be present from birth or can develop in young adulthood or even later in life

Secondary Lymphoedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system. It can develop as a result of:

  • Surgery particularly where lymph nodes have to be removed as in a mastectomy
  • Radiotherapy, radiation treatment used exclusively for cancer patients
  • Injury or Accident where lymph nodes are damaged
  • Immobility which impairs the lymph vessels and nodes
  • Infection can cause a damage to the nodes in the infected area
  • It can also be due a Venous problem, where the veins in the legs no longer work properly

Lipoedema was identified as a condition in 1940, yet continues to be poorly understood and is often misdiagnosed. It is an abnormal deposition of subcutaneous fat with an associated oedema. It occurs spontaneously (typically at puberty) and is characterised by symmetrical enlargement of both legs from below the waist to the ankles, while the upper body remains unaffected. Occasionally it also affects the arms. The skin is sensitive to pressure and tends to bruise easily. Pain ranges from negligible to disabling. Patients find the condition extremely distressing. Patients suffering from lipoedema may develop lymphoedema as well (lipo-lymphoedema).

Lymphatic drainage helps the lymphatic system to start pumping effectively again and redirect the fluid to the functioning part of the system.
It is strongly recommended that patients have MLD immediately after surgery or radiotherapy to help prevent development of Lymphoedema.

The Treatment

During the initial consultation a full medical history is taken. The swollen limb and healthy limb are measured. An intensive course of treatment may be necessary, depending on the severity, this consists of daily treatment for 2-3 week. This consists of MLD to the limb followed by multi layer bandaging, after this period a compression stocking or sleeve can be supplied. According to the body’s response a maintenance plan can be discussed.

Unfortunately there isn’t a cure for Lymphoedema as yet, so on going MLD is necessary. This may be daily, weekly or monthly sessions.

The use of the Hivamat 200 deep oscillation unit will speed up your treatment.

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