Lymphoedema Clinic

This information has been produced and verified by accepted experts in their field and reflects current practice. The information has been designed to assist you in managing your condition and is not intended to replace advice you may receive from your health care practitioner.

If you, or your health care practitioner would like further information, to ask any questions about this information or to find out what research underpins it, please contact the Lymphoedema Support Network on 044 020 7351 4480.

Introduction - What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a swelling that develops as a result of an impaired lymphatic system. This may be as a result of the lymphatic system not developing properly, or through damage or trauma (see section on types of lymphoedema). It can affect any part of the body but is most commonly seen in an arm or a leg.

What is Lymphoedema?

It can be defined as an abnormal accumulation of protein rich fluid in the tissues. If, for whatever reason, the lymphatic system is not working correctly, or the vessels are not draining adequately, the fluid in the tissues builds up (as when a river is dammed and flooding occurs). Swelling occurs when the amount of fluid in an area, is greater than the capacity of the lymphatic system to transport it away. Lymphoedema can, therefore, be defined as 'an abnormal accumulation of protein rich fluid in the tissues'.

Types of Lymphoedema

Primary Lymphoedema

Primary Lymphoedema is usually determined from birth and arises due to some failure of the lymphatic system itself - usually with the underdevelopment of the lymphatic system. It may develop without any obvious cause at different stages in life, but particularly in adolescence.

Secondary Lymphoedema

Secondary Lymphoedema is the result of some problem outside of the lymphatic system that prevents it working properly. Examples of secondary lymphoedema are

What Can Be Done To Help?

Generally, there are four components of care that will be recommended for people with mild to moderate swelling of their limbs:

Reassessment and monitoring of progress is essential to ensure good results - as is, a high level of motivation and compliance by the patient themselves.



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