Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner

As an Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner in Coffs Harbour, Intentional Care offers comprehensive support and management for lymphedema, a significant medical condition. Here, we provide important information about the condition and the pivotal role a Lymphoedema Practitioner performs.

What is Lymphoedema?

The lymphatic system is part of the body’s immune system. It is crucial in defending the body against infections and diseases, helping protect it from harm. It comprises a network of vessels throughout the body that carry a fluid called lymph. The lymph fluid passes through lymph nodes, filtering and destroying harmful substances such as viruses, bacteria or cancer cells.

Lymphoedema occurs when the system does not work correctly because of a mechanical problem. The fluid cannot drain, so it causes swelling in the tissues. Lymphoedema is the swelling that occurs when the lymph nodes or vessels that make up the lymphatic system become blocked or damaged. This damage or blockage causes fluid build-up in the body’s soft tissues.

Lymphoedema most commonly occurs in the arms or legs but can also occur in the chest, genital area, head, or neck.

What Is Lymphoedema

What are the Symptoms of Lymphoedema?

The most common signs and symptoms of lymphoedema are:

  • Swelling, which might come and go in the arm, leg or other affected body part. The first sign might be that shoes, clothes or jewellery seem unusually tight
  • a sense of tightness or heaviness in the affected limb or area of the body
  • aching and discomfort in the affected limb or area of the body
  • less movement in the affected arm or leg
  • repeated skin infections
  • a toughening or thickening of the skin
  • pitting of the skin (so gently pushing on the skin leaves an indent)

Lymphoedema can be classified as mild (with no noticeable swelling), moderate (with skin pitting), or severe (with hard and fatty skin). Lymphoedema can come and go.

Many people find that the swelling from lymphoedema becomes worse:

  • during the day and then lessens overnight
  • in the heat
  • with overuse of the limb
  • by not changing positions
  • with lengthy inactivity

What are the Causes of Lymphoedema?

Lymphedema has two main types: primary and secondary. Each type has a distinct cause.

Lymphoedema can also be a mix of both types. Secondary lymphoedema is the most common, while primary lymphoedema is uncommon.

Primary lymphoedema

Primary lymphoedema is caused by a faulty gene. People affected by this condition are born with an abnormality of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic vessels in primary lymphoedema might be:

  • reduced in number
  • too large to work properly
  • missing

This kind of lymphoedema typically develops in early childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. However, it can occur at any age.

Secondary Lymphoedema

Secondary lymphoedema occurs when there is damage or a blockage of the lymphatic system as a result of:

  • surgery — often lymph nodes are removed during cancer surgery
  • radiotherapy cancer treatment
  • trauma or tissue damage
  • immobility due to age, pain or infection
  • obesity

Women who have surgery or radiotherapy for breast cancer can get secondary lymphoedema in their arms and chest. Men and women who have had surgery or radiotherapy for prostate cancerbowel cancer, or cancer of the reproductive system are also at risk of secondary lymphoedema in the legs or groin area.

Lymphoedema may occur immediately after the lymphatic system has been damaged or blocked or appears years later.

Lymphatic System
How is lymphoedema diagnosed

How is lymphoedema diagnosed?

If a doctor suspects lymphoedema, they will ask about the patient’s signs, symptoms, and medical history. They will also examine any affected parts of the body and measure them to see if there is any swelling. They might also need more tests to assess the extent of the lymphoedema. If a diagnosis of lymphoedema is made, the doctor will refer the patient to a Level 1-3 Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner to manage the condition.

How is lymphoedema treated?

Lymphoedema cannot be cured. However, it may be possible to keep it under control using Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT). This treatment consists of:

  • Compression therapy — wearing tailored, graduated compression garments
  • Exercise — ensuring they move about regularly and do any special exercises they have been advised to, such as walking or resistance training
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage — having lymphatic drainage massage is a specialised massage treatment.
  • Skincare — maintaining good skin condition and reducing the chance of infection
  • SIPC (Sequential Intermittent Pneumatic Compression)

If DLT doesn’t manage the lymphoedema, surgery may be an option. This should be discussed with their Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner.

In order to keep the condition under control and to give the best chance of success, treatment for lymphoedema must be started as soon as possible.

Medirent - Sequential Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (SIPC) therapy

Can Lymphoedema be Prevented?

If patients have had surgery, radiotherapy or an injury that puts them at risk of developing lymphoedema, they can do a few things to reduce the risk. They should:

    • Take good care of their skin
    • Avoid scented soaps and washes, and keep their skin clean by washing with pH-neutral soap
    • Use a moisturiser like QV, Nivea, or Dove daily to maintain soft and moist skin.
    • Applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing to avoid sunburn
    • use insect repellent to protect against bites
    • avoid cuts and infections
    • wear gloves while gardening, washing up and doing housework
    • Use antiseptic on any cuts.
    • See their doctor urgently if a cut looks as though it is infected.
    • Cut their nails with clippers, not scissors.
    • When shaving, use an electric razor.
    • Avoid putting pressure in the wrong place, such as because of a tight bra strap or around an affected arm.
    • Avoid using an affected arm for injections, blood sample drips or blood pressure measurements.
    • Wear loose-fitting clothes or jewellery.
    • Be active
    • and do exercises to reduce the risk of lymph fluid accumulating.
    • Begin any exercise slowly and build up gradually.
    • Keep at a healthy weight,
    • If they are overweight, talk to their doctor about losing weight.
    • Ensure they eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Essentially, stimulating fluid flow through their lymphatic system will reduce the chances of a fluid build-up and may help them prevent lymphoedema.

Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner

Lymphoedema requires sensitive care and management. An accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner provides crucial support in controlling and managing this condition.

Reach out to us today to learn more about our lymphoedema management services.

Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner