Lymphoedema is a result of a failure of the lymphatic system. This causes swelling in the body tissue, which can affect the limbs, though it may also involve the trunk, breast, head and neck.
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes throughout the body that transports fluid (lymph) from the body tissues back to the bloodstream. The functions of the lymphatic system are to remove excess fluid and to assist the immune system in removing waste products from the tissues.
Primary lymphoedema may be present at birth, develop at the onset of puberty, or not become apparent for many years into adulthood.
Secondary lymphoedema is the most common type, typically developing following damage to the lymphatic system. The damage may occur as a result of cancer treatment, including the removal of lymph nodes, following radiotherapy to lymph node groups, or with the progression of malignant disease. The onset may be at any time, e.g. within months of the damage or years later.
Complete Lymphoedema Therapy (CLT) is designed to keep the swelling (lymphoedema) under control and to reduce the oedema so that there is no risk of complications, such as inflammation, ulcers or immobility.
CLT consists of education, skin care, exercise, Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), and compression therapy. Treatment is individualised for each client. For example, not all the above treatment elements may be necessary in all cases.
Elastic Taping for lymphoedema might also be used as an element in CLT.
When the client has sufficiently improved, the next step is self-management. Unfortunately, there is no cure yet for lymphoedema, so it is important that the client keeps up with the self-management programme and checks in with their CLT therapist once or twice a year.
CLT has a holistic multidisciplinary approach and is provided by qualified lymphoedema therapists.
For more on lymphoedema management, please go to the following sites: