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Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema

 

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Lymphoedema occurs when the lymphatic system does not function properly resulting in long term swelling of one or more parts of the body.

The tissues in the body are constantly being supplied with clear fluid from the blood to both nourish and cleanse the tissues. Most of this fluid is removed from the tissues by the blood, but approximately 10% must be cleared away by the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is made up of vessels which drain the clear lymph fluid, and nodes (or glands) which filter the lymph fluid to remove bacteria, dead or abnormal cells. This system plays an important role in the body's defence against infection.

When the lymphatic system fails to function normally, the lymph fluid does not drain away and swelling occurs. There are a number of conditions which will place a person at risk of developing lymphoedema including:

 

Primary Lymphoedema

  • improperly formed lymphatic system (lymphoedema may be present at birth or show up in young adulthood)

Secondary Lymphoedema

  • severe injury e.g. burns
  • infection or disease e.g. cancer
  • surgery to remove lymph nodes or radio-therapy following cancer treatment

 

Whilst lymphoedema can occur in almost any part of the body, it most commonly occurs in the arms and legs. It can appear soon after damage to the lymph system or it can occur months or years aftwerwards.

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Treatment

The clinical objectives of lymphoedema management are:

  • mobilise the congested tissue fluid
  • reduce the proliferation of connective tissue and fat
  • achieve and maintain freedom from symptoms

 

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is the method of choice for lymphoedema management and consists of two phases:

 

Phase 1 promotes activities that lead to improved lymphatic drainage including:

  • Regular exercises
  • Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD). Through massage of affected areas, lymph in the superficial, valveless network of lymph capillaries is moved from oedematous regions to oedema-free areas where it can be systemically removed.
  • Firm compression bandaging maintains the oedema removal achieved by MLD.
  • Skin treatment and skin care

 

Phase 2 serves to maintain and optimise the results achieved in phase 1. It includes:

  • sustained compression to keep the affected limb free of excessive oedema, thereby maintaining limb volume.

 

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Product Selection

(CDT)

Phase

Product Selection

 

Phase 1

 

Compression Bandaging
Lightweight tubular gauze bandage: Short stretch compression bandage:
Provides high working pressure and lower resting pressure.

 

Phase 2


Compression Garments

Ready to Wear: Assists in the management of mild to moderate lymphoedema following trauma, surgery or radiation therapy.
Custom Made: Controlled gradient compression for the effective long term management of lymphoedema.
Ready to Wear Accessories
Roll on body adhesive: Designed to keep JOBST# garments in place.

 

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Related Links

Lymphoedema Associations

Support Groups:

  • Contact your the Cancer Society to find your local support group

 

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