Have you noticed your feet or legs are swelling and you don’t know why?
Lymphoedema is a disease which occurs when the lymphatic system fails and fluid accumulated in the affected area. It causes progressive swelling, skin changes, fluid leakage from the skin, and an increased risk of infection. It cannot be cured, but needs to be managed to prevent dangerous complications such as immobility or cellulitis, a serious bacterial skin infection.
If lymphoedema is suspected, your GP will refer you to a specialist lymphoedema clinic. Here they will ask about your symptoms and medical history, measure and examine your legs, and possibly perform a lymphoscintigram, where dye is injected and a scanner tracks how it moves through your lymphatic system.
There are two sorts of lymphoedema – primary and secondary.
Primary occurs where a genetic fault causes abnormal development of the lymphatic system, this normally develops early in life.
Secondary arises through damage to a previously normally functioning lymphatic system, and can happen at any time of life. Common causes are injuries, surgeries, cancer treatments and obesity.
There are 5 main pillars of lymphoedema management
Although lymphoedema cannot be cured, you can live a very healthy active life with good management.