Lymphedema is a condition in which excess protein-rich ﬂuid (lymph) collects in tissues under the skin and causes swelling (edema) and sometimes hardening (fibrosis) of the soft tissues. The swelling varies from mild to severe, where mild forms are reported as some generalised swelling and ‘puffiness’ usually in the lower legs.
If you suffer from mild swelling of the legs as is common especially in the heat, during pregnancy and advancing age, at PhysioMotion we offer the most effective compression garments available.
Depending on its cause, lymphedema can affect any part of the body. It can affect the arms, legs, face and neck, breast and torso, and genitals. Lymphedema is not necessarily painful, but can be uncomfortable.
Having lymphedema that is more serious, may put you at risk of serious skin infections called cellulitis or erysipelas. Mild to moderate cases may require minimal intervention such as compression garments. Our Specialist Lymphedaema Physiotherapist Nathan Bridgman, can help diagnose the severity and treat this condition with the internationally recognized standard of care Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT).
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and plays a vital role in the immune responses of the body. It is responsible for clearing the body’s excess fluid and unwanted substances such as complex proteins. These substances, along with the excess fluid can accumulate anywhere in the body and cause lymphedema if the lymphatic system is not functioning well. It can cause fibrosis (hardening) of the soft tissues. In addition, the lymphatic system also monitors for the presence of bacteria and viruses whilst housing white blood cells that are used for producing antibodies to fight disease.
Surgical removal or radiation treatment to the lymph nodes puts the body at risk of developing lymphedema. Even the minimally invasive Sentinel Node Biopsy procedure does not eliminate the risk of lymphedema entirely, although it will significantly reduce the risk. In addition, infection or physical trauma to the lymph nodes can damage the system. Some people are born with a lymphatic system that is not working properly resulting in lymphedema that can start early in life, or well into adulthood.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD): A light massage-like skin stretching technique that stimulates the lymphatic system.
Compression: Compression therapy physically resists the internal forces which produce lymph ﬂuid. Well-padded bandaging is initially used to reduce edema. At a later stage, expertly fitted medical compression garments manage lymphedema for the long term.
Exercise: Whilst wearing your compression garments or bandaging, specifically prescribed exercises that utilise your muscles’ pumping action will be performed to assist in moving the fluid out of the lymphedematous area.
Skin Care: Keeping the skin clean and moisturized will help to prevent skin damage and infections that often occur with lymphedema.
It is important to note that the exercise and MLD elements of CDT have not been found to be effective on their own and that MLD or “lymphatic massage” alone will not prevent lymphedema from progressing. Every person with lymphedema should be wearing a professionally fitted compression garment.
If you would like to know whether you are suffering lymphedema or would like to know about our treatment, call PhysioMotion and ask to speak with our Lymphedaema Physiotherapist.