Lymphoedema can be described as the chronic swelling of a limb or body part. This swelling arises when the lymphatic system is not working effectively and the lymph fluid builds up within the tissues of the limb. The lymphatic system is comprised of lymph vessels and nodes and also a number of organs, including the spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow.
The Lymphatic System
The role of the lymphatic system is to shift lymphatic fluid from the tissues, filter the fluid and then return it back into the bloodstream. It also has an important role in immune defence and production of white blood cells. Lymphoedema can be classified as either being primary lymphoedema or secondary lymphoedema.
Primary lymphoedema is a congenital (or present from birth) condition that affects the efficacy of the lymphatic system. Secondary lymphoedema is swelling caused by damage to the lymphatic system, commonly due to surgery and lymph node removal.
Treatment for lymphoedema
Treatment for lymphoedema is aimed at reducing the swelling in the limb and preventing further progression of the condition. Whilst it is not possible to repair damaged lymphatics, lymphoedema can be effectively managed using a number of techniques. These techniques include bandaging, lymphatic massage, exercise and compression garments.
Downs Physiotherapy offers assessment and treatment for patients with lymphoedema. We can offer monitoring of limb size, lymphatic massage and education regarding self-massage and exercise programs, and also prescription and fitting of compression garments.