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Lymphoedema – what is it and are you at risk?

One in 300,000 people in Australia will experience lymphoedema in their lifetime. Knowing this, do you know what it is and if you’re at risk? Is there a cure and can it be treated?

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.

What is Lymphoedema?

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. This means that you may have one arm / leg looking or feeling bigger than the other.  You may not recognise swelling immediately.  However, you may 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?

There’s an increased risk of developing lymphoedema if you’ve had surgery and radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer of the prostate, bowel or reproductive systems.  This means that women who have undergone surgery and radiotherapy for treatment of breast cancer are particularly susceptible to lymphoedema of the arm.  Sometimes the adjacent chest wall on the affected side can also be prone to lymphoedema. (Note – swelling in the first year post cancer treatment does not always progress to lymphoedema.)

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?

Seek medical advice promptly and ask for a referral to a qualified lymphoedema therapist if you have any concerns.

Treating lymphoedema

Lymphoedema can be treated and managed to improve both function and quality of life; but there is no cure. However, 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 lmymphatic drainage (MLD)

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

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