WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Lymphoedema is a long term, chronic swelling of an area of the body due to a compromised lymphatic system: i.e. obstruction, damage, genetic malformation or removal of lymph nodes.
Lymphoedema is usually accompanied by feelings of heaviness, aching, weakness in the area and decrease in range of movement. It can have a significant impact on someone's quality of life and personal ability to care about themselves, the family and work.
There are two types of lymphoedema: primary lymphoedema and secondary lymphoedema.
Primary lymphoedema is the result of an abnormal development of the lymphatic system before birth. When it is present at birth, it is called congenital lymphoedema. An example would be Milroy's disease, which can affect boys and girls and occurs usually in both legs. Lymphoedema can develop later in life, around puberty, and it is called lymphoedema praecox. An example would be Meige disease, which is characterized by swelling in one lower leg, and affects girls more than boys. The onset of lymphoedema tarda usually occurs after the age of 35 and it is less common.
It is the most common type of lymphoedema developing following damage or impingement of the lymphatic system. It often occurs secondary to a medical intervention or a condition, for example:
It is often caused by surgery and/or radiation treatment for cancer treatment where lymph nodes have been removed or damaged. It may occur in the arm, breast and other areas of the upper body on the affected side following mastectomy or lumpectomy. It can also occur in the lower limbs or groin after colon surgery, melanoma removal or hysterectomy for example.
Obesity can impede the venous blood when returning to the heart from the lower extremities and increase the risk of varicose veins and swelling. Obesity can be a predisposing factor for lymphoedema because the increase in weight and body size impinges on the lymphatics and the number of lymphatic vessels does not increase.
Lipoedema is not to be confused with lymphoedema, although it can be a predisposing factor. Lipoedema is a fat metabolism discrepancy, which affects women. The fat is deposited mainly in the buttocks, the legs, and sometimes the arms. The feet, the hands and the waist are usually not affected. The skin can be very sensitive to the touch, particularly in the inner thighs. Lipoedema is genetic and is often more apparent at the age of puberty or any other times in a women's life when experiencing hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause. Common remarks are: "I only have to look at food to put on weight" and when dieting "I loose the weight everywhere else but in the areas where I would like it to go". Dieting can be disheartening for this particular reason. Lymphoedema may eventually develop secondary to lipoedema and the hands and feet are often affected.
There is no cure for lymphoedema but we can help you control it with an effective management program. Please look at our treatment options and click on the link below to make an appointment.