Lymphoedema is a condition where one develops abnormal swelling in a limb/s or other part of the body (e.g. abdomen, chest, face). There are many causes of lymphoedema. Some are primary, meaning that an individual is born with a certain defect in their lymphatic system. This leads to a build-up of fluid in certain parts of the body. Secondary causes can be due to venous disease, immobility, trauma, infection or surgery; leading to a progressive, chronic overload of the lymphatic system causing swelling. Surgical removal of lymph nodes, such as can occur in cancer patients, causes a structural impairment that leads to fluid build-up.
Lymphoedema signs and symptoms:
- Discomfort of the affected body part (pain is unusual but can occur in certain secondary lymphoedema’s)
- Feeling of “heaviness” or “fullness” in the affected body part
- Increased size of the affected limb/body part
- Skin changes (such as discolouration, thickening of the skin)
- Sometimes there can be restricted movement in the affect limb
Lymphoedema cannot be cured but can be effectively managed with therapy. The process of treating lymphoedema is known as complete decongestive therapy (CDT). This includes an evaluation of the swollen limb/body part, identifying potential causes of the swelling, manual lymph drainage (MLD), the use of compression bandages and garments, skin care and home exercises.
Manual Lymph Drainage is a gentle massage technique used to activate the lymphatic system in order to cope better. Depending on the site and severity of the swelling and the individual’s circumstances, the treatment required is tailored to suit that person. It should only be performed by a qualified lymphoedema therapist.
As Occupational Therapists, be firmly believe is assisting patients and their families in learning how to manage their lymphoedema themselves as lymphoedema is a chronic condition. We do this through patient/caregiver education and instruction on home management strategies, as well as through recommending assistive devices to help with doffing and darning compression garments.
Treatment for lymphoedema therapy:
- Manual lymph drainage
- Compression bandaging
- Compression garments
- Donning and doffing devices
- Skin care
- Range of motion when appropriate
- Activities of daily living
- Kinesiotaping for oedema
Schedule an Appointment
For an integrated approach to Occupational Therapy services, contact us on the details below.
Hands, Lymphoedema & Breast Cancer
011 475 9480
Neurological and Adult Physical Rehabilitation
060 477 9950