About Lymphoedema

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About Lymphoedema

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.

Lymphoedema is caused by the lymphatic system not working properly. The lymphatic system is a network of channels and glands in the body that helps fight infection and remove excess fluid.

Symptoms

The main symptom of lymphoedema is swelling in a limb or part of the body. At first, the swelling may come and go but, without treatment, it can become more severe and persistent.

Symptoms 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

Causes

There are two main types of lymphoedema:

  • Primary lymphoedema – caused by faulty genes. It can develop at any age
  • Secondary lymphoedema – caused by damage to the lymphatic system or problems with the movement and drainage of fluid in the lymphatic system; it can be the result of an infection, injury, cancer treatment, inflammation of the limb, or a lack of limb movement

Lymphoedema is thought to affect more than 200,000 people in the UK. Secondary lymphoedema is the most common form.

Diagnosing

See your GP if you experience the symptoms of lymphoedema. They may refer you to a specialist lymphoedema centre for assessment.

Treatment

There's no cure for lymphoedema, but it's usually possible to control the symptoms using techniques to minimise fluid build-up and stimulate the flow of fluid through the lymphatic system. These include using Kinesio Taping, compression garments, taking good care of your skin, moving and exercising regularly, having a healthy diet and lifestyle, and using specialised massage techniques.