Since Lymphoedema Awareness Week is taking place from 6th-11th March, we decided it was the perfect time to talk about lymphoedema, how it can be managed, and Compton’s own role in helping to both improve the lives of those living with lymphoedema and to raise awareness of the condition. So, what exactly is lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema, a chronic inflammatory condition, involves large, uncomfortable swellings, which can affect any part of the body but are typically found in the arms or legs.
There are actually two main types of lymphoedema.
Primary lymphoedema means that faulty genes are the cause, so it may be present from birth or develop later in life.
Secondary lymphoedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system, which protects us from infection and disease. Those with a functioning lymphatic system are able to drain excess fluid (lymph) away from tissues. When damage to the system occurs, the lymph is unable to drain away, causing swelling and sometimes changes to the skin too.
There are many causes of secondary lymphoedema, such as:
- Cancer treatment (including when sections of the lymphatic system are removed during surgery, or radiotherapy)
- Infections such as cellulitis, which can damage the tissue around the lymphatic system
- Inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis or eczema
- Lifestyle factors including inactivity and obesity
- Medications such as corticosteroids and calcium channel blockers
- Injury or trauma
There is no cure for the condition, but it can be managed in order to keep it under control and help to prevent complications. At Compton, lymphoedema patients are partnered with a specialist practitioner to provide advice, support and treatment, empowering patients to take control and manage their lymphoedema.
Treatments available include lymphatic drainage, which is a skin moving technique, a bit like a massage, to relieve the swelling. There are skin care options to help with moisturising and preventing infections. Compression garments are also available, which reduce fluid build up and are usually a key part of the treatment plan.
Patients are also given some exercises to aid the natural drainage of fluid. As part of Lymphoedema Awareness Week, the British Lymphology Society are promoting their ‘EveryBody Can’ campaign, which encourages everyone to find their secret weapon to help keep them moving. The ‘Find 3 Challenge’ involves finding three minutes at various times each day to do some activity and wake up the lymphatic system.
Some of their suggestions for when to ‘Find 3’ include…
Options for some simple exercises to perform during these three minutes include:
- Heel raises
- Calf stretches
- Knee lifts
- Deep breathing
- Neck stretches
- Arm stretches
- Shoulder rotations
For more details about each of these exercises, please visit the Find 3 Challenge page on the British Lymphology Society’s website. And remember to never force a stretch that is beyond what’s comfortable!
For more information about Compton’s lymphoedema care, please click here or call 01902 774570.
To learn more about how to get involved with Lymphoedema Awareness Week this year, please click here.