What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema occurs when returned lymph fluid to the blood stream is blocked. Excess lymph fluid then collects in the tissues and causes the swelling that we see. Swelling usually accumulates in the limbs, although it can also affect the trunk, breast, head and neck or genital area.

Signs and symptoms of Lymphoedema

  • A heavy, tight or full feeling in a limb or body part
  • Swelling: you may notice indentations in the skin from tight clothing, jewellery or shoes.
  • Aches, pain or tension in the limb or body part

Who can get Lymphoedema?

Primary lymphoedema is an inherited condition and can include lipoedema. Anyone can have this condition, comparatively speaking, it is rare.

Secondary lymphoedema manifests due to another condition in the body causing it.

  • Approximately 1 in 5 cancer sufferers who have had radiation to lymph node areas, or lymph nodes removed can develop Lymphoedema
  • Decreased mobility often contributes to Lymphoedema problems and can sometimes be the primary cause
  • Obesity can also contribute to, or cause Lymphoedema
  • Scars from surgery or major traumas can sometimes damage or restrict lymphatic vessels which in turn causes the build up of lymph fluid


How is Lymphoedema treated?

Research shows the best results are obtained through Combined Decongestive Therapy, which consists of:

  • MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage)
  • Elevation
  • Compression garments/compression bandaging
  • Exercises
  • Other aids such as kinesiotaping may be useful to help the lymphatic system work more efficiently

Treatment may vary depending on the stage and severity of the Lymphoedema. Education to recognise early warning signs and learning to manage your condition is very important. Manual Lymphatic Drainage is now also being used pre-operatively to prevent the onset of some Lymphoedema.

Lymphoedema management is available at Life Ready Physio Midland.