What is lymphedema ?
Lymphedema is a chronic disease of the lymphatic system which can cause pain, swelling and skin problems if not managed properly. This is a life-long condition requiring good management in order for sufferers to avoid painful complications.
How is Primary Lymphedema different from Secondary ?
There are two main types of lymphedema – primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is congenital, meaning someone is born with “faulty” lymph vessels, too many of them or not enough of them. As a result, the body struggles with fluid balance, immune response, cell nourishment and the disposal of waste. Secondary lymphedema, results from damage to once healthy lymphatic vessels by trauma, surgery or radiation therapy. Different studies have shown varying statistics about how many people will end up with secondary “LE” following surgery or radiation therapy. Some studies suggest as many as 100% of patients who’ve had radiation therapy will end up with secondary LE, either months or years down the track.
What are the tell-tale signs of lymphedema ?
Early on, an arm or leg can feel “heavy” or “just not right” with no other symptoms. This is the best time to treat LE with lymphatic drainage. It’s crucial to get a diagnosis from your doctor or specialist as soon as possible in order to arrest the condition before it develops further. If “faulty” lymphatic vessels are left untreated, excess fluid and “unfriendly” substances will build up in the tissue, causing chronic excessive swelling, pain, fibrosis and eventually the break-down of the skin. Early and regular treatment, both with your therapist and at home, will ensure your lymphedema doesn’t become a major problem.
How can I best manage my lymphedema ?
Whether someone has primary or secondary LE, the key to good management is to find a therapist who provides combined decongestive therapy, or CDT. Also, it’s important to be fitted with a good compression garment once the reduction phase of your therapy is done. Your therapist will help with fitting and ordering a garment or else direct you to a garment specialist. Maintenance garments can be expensive and should have the right amount of compression without causing pain, so correct measurement is a must. BOOK NOW
How can Combined Decongestive Therapy help my Lymphedema ?
Combined decongestive therapy reduces swelling, stimulates the lymphatic system, softens fibrosis and helps to heal chronic wounds. We can by-pass damaged areas and re-direct the flow of lymph to healthier channels using gentle lymphatic drainage and “anastamoses”, which are lymph vessels that can change the direction of their flow. There are two stages in combined decongestive therapy. During the “reduction phase” we reduce swelling using a combination of lymphatic drainage and compression bandaging. After this comes the “maintenance phase”, where we aim to keep swelling down and avoid skin complications. In order for this to work well, it’s important to follow the instructions given to you by your therapist. In addition to getting regular treatment by a therapist, we will recommend home exercises, ani-bacterial skin care and a compression garment for your maintenance phase.
A Compression Garment will follow Combined Decongestive Therapy for best results with Lymphedema.
* Note: Always consult your doctor if you’re unsure about whether you suffer from lymphedema or not. We can treat lymphedema but not diagnose it.