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Lymphoedema – what is it and are you at risk?

Did you know that one in 300,000 people in Australia will experience lymphoedema in their lifetime? Given these figures, how do you know if you’re at risk? Is there a cure? Can it be treated? Do you know what it is?

As with many conditions, early treatment is paramount to successful lymphoedema management. So what do you look for? Mobile Rehab has a team of specially trained lymphoedema therapists who treat many different types of lymphoedema, read on to learn more.

What is Lymphoedema?

In very basic terms, lymphoedema is a condition that is characterised by swelling as a result of an impaired flow in the lymphatic system.

How do you recognise the onset of lymphoedema?

Swelling is usually the first sign, sometimes intermittently in the arms and legs. Is one arm / leg looking or feeling bigger than the other?

You may not recognise swelling immediately, but perhaps notice a ‘tightness’ of the skin, heaviness, aching and skin temperature changes. You might also notice your clothing, jewellery or watch is becoming tighter.

Who is at risk of developing lymphoedema?

If you’ve had surgery and radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer of the prostate, bowel or reproductive systems you’ll have an increased risk of developing lymphoedema of the legs or groin areas.

Women who have undergone surgery and radiotherapy for treatment of breast cancer are particularly susceptible to lymphoedema of the arm and, sometimes, the adjacent chest wall on the affected side. (Note – swelling in the first year post cancer treatment does not always progress to lymphoedema.)

Having said that, there is a type of Lymphoedema that is inherited. This is called Primary Lymphoedema, and while rare, its symptoms, physical effects and approach to treatments are the same.

What do you do if you have swelling?

If you are concerned at all, seek medical advice promptly and ask for a referral to a qualified lymphoedema therapist.

Treating lymphoedema

While there’s no cure for Lymphoedema, it can be treated and managed to improve both function and quality of life. Early treatment has been shown to improve function and minimise ongoing complications

What treatment is available?

Mobile Rehab has physiotherapists and occupational therapists who are specially trained in lymphoedema treatment. It is important that Lymphoedema is treated holistically to minimise the progression of the condition. This can be done through a combination of the following:

  • compression garments
  • exercise
  • skin care
  • elevation
  • specific limb exercises
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

Contact us if you would like more information on our lymphoedema services in your own home.

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