Helen qualified as a lymphoedema therapist in 2013 and is registered with the Australasian Lymphology Association. Lymphoedema is the accumulation of excessive amounts of protein rich fluid resulting in swelling of one or more areas. It is due to mechanical failure of the lymphatic system through either malformation or damage and usually affects one or more limbs but may also affect the trunk, breast, genitals, head and neck
Secondary lymphoedema is most common and may result from damage to the lymphatic system after removal of lymph nodes as part of cancer treatment or damage to these after radiotherapy treatment. Symptoms may occur soon after the damage occurs or only present years later. It is a progressive disease and early intervention is recommended to prevent permanent tissue changes.
Early signs may include swelling of the limb or adjacent areas, aching or heaviness, stiffness or loss of joint movement, tight clothing or jewellery. It may be aggravated by heavy use of the limb, sustained sitting or lack of mobility and heat . Light exercise, elevation, compression and lymphoedema massage all help to ease the symptoms.
Treatment should be individualised to facilitate lymphatic drainage, educate the patient regarding self- management and prevent deterioration.
It may include:
- Advice and education
- Skin care
- Active exercises
- Manual lymphatic drainage by a qualified practitioner
- Compression bandaging
- Prescription of suitable compression garments