Lymphoedema and chronic oedema should always be assessed and treated by trained professionals who have completed training specific to the treatment of lymphoedema and chronic oedema. If not treated appropriately, lymphoedema will progress. Early intervention is key in the management of Lymphoedema and oedema.
Lymphoedema occurs when the lymphatic system is not functioning properly. The lymphatic system has vessels, much like the circulatory system, and if those vessels aren’t working properly, or if there is so much fluid that it can’t cope with the load, it will result in swelling. Lymphoedema can occur in any part of the body and it might occur immediately following damage to the lymphatics, or it might develop years later.
Swelling for over 3 months is considered chronic and should be assessed and treated immediately.
There are two types of lymphoedema:
Primary lymphoedema; A birth defect where the vessels have not developed properly. Symptoms may appear from birth, or may develop later in life, particularly in the teenage years.
Secondary lymphoedema; Lymphoedema that occurs due to damage to the lymphatic system.
Causes for this damage may include:
- Surgery – especially after cancer surgery when lymph nodes have been removed, but can also occur after other surgeries
- Severe injury to the lymphatic system
- Recurrent infections
Lymphoedema might also occur secondary to other systemic problems in the body including but not limited to circulation, cardiac, kidney, and liver problems. It’s always best to have these cleared by your GP before undertaking any treatment for lymphoedema.
Early warning signs of lymphoedema may include:
- Tightness – You may notice your clothes, jewellery, shoes might feel tighter than usual or perhaps the skin itself feels tight.
- Swelling – This might occur in certain temperatures, at the end of a long day on your feet, after being in one position for a long time, or perhaps it’s there all the time.
- Heaviness – Feelings of heaviness, aching, and stiffness are common in early stages of lymphoedema.
- Cellulitis/infection – Multiple episodes of infection or cellulitis can sometimes be a sign of lymphoedema.
- Reduced range of movement in a particular body part.
It’s important to remember that these signs in isolation can also be common to LOTS of other things and therefore if you have any, it doesn’t mean that you have lymphoedema.
If you have any concerns, come in for an assessment with our trained lymphoedema practitioner to determine the best course of action.