Lymphoedema is a special type of swelling that can be managed by a lymphoedema therapist. The therapists are certified and trained to provide manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), compression bandaging, compression garments, therapeutic exercises, and patient education to decrease swelling.
MLD is a gentle rhythmic massage which not only has an overall soothing and calming effect on the muscles, it also plays an important role in improving lymphatic flow and removing excessive fluid in the tissue. Compression bandage, as its name implies, provides compressive force to the affected limb. It is used in conjunction with MLD to achieve better results in managing the swelling. The patients are also encouraged to participate actively with therapeutic exercises, self-massage and bandaging taught by the therapist.
Lymphoedema is caused by malfunctioning in the lymphatic system. It is irreversible and there is no cure for it. As the condition progresses, it may become more difficult to manage. It is crucial to treat and control this condition early. Lymphoedema should not be left untreated as it increases the risk of developing an infection that may require medical attention.
The lymphatic system is made up of a complex network of lymph vessel interspersed by lymph nodes. The lymph vessel collects a clear coloured fluid (lymph) that is made up of water, protein and waste products from tissue and transports them into the blood stream; thereby maintain the fluid balance in the body.
Lymphoedema can be due to an impaired lymphatic system or an insufficient number of lymph vessels. This is known as a primary lymphoedema. On the other hand, lymphoedema can also be caused by secondary factors such as surgery, radiotherapy, trauma, cancer, inflammation and filariasis, a parasitic infection transmitted by mosquitoes. This is known as secondary lymphoedema. Surgeries that involve the removal of lymph nodes in the breast, head, neck and groin are likely to increase the risk of developing secondary lymphoedema.
Signs and symptoms of affected area:
- Tightness with ring, watch or bracelet
- Feeling of tightness and fullness
- Persistent swelling
- Difficulty fitting clothing in affected area
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