What can be done about lymphoedema?

It is possible to manage the condition of lymphoedema, and the earlier treatment is commenced, the more successful the outcome. This will lead to a faster return to a more normal lifestyle.

Many health professionals have been trained in the special techniques of treating lymphoedema. Treatment may include a program of skin care, exercise, massage, compression bandaging and special elasticised support garments.


Applying the padding

  Final pressure bandage

Not all people who are at risk will develop lymphoedema. Discuss your particular situation with your doctor.

Experience has shown that by observing the following guidelines the risk of developing lymphoedema can be reduced:-

  • It is important to keep the skin clean and supple to avoid infection. Wash well, and towel dry skin gently. If skin is dry and cracked use a moisturiser.
  • Protect skin from cuts, scratches, knocks, sunburn, burns, insect bites, etc. Use an electric razor where possible, and avoid damaging surrounding skin during finger and toe nail care.
  • If injury occurs, wash the skin thoroughly and apply a disinfectant. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice any signs of infection such as redness, heat or pain.
  • Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing or accessories (rings, watches, shoes with straps etc.) on the limb at risk.
  • Avoid offering the limb at risk for the taking of blood or blood pressure, injections or needle acupuncture. These procedures may further interfere with the drainage of lymph fluid. Discuss this with your doctor before these procedures are performed.
  • Avoid carrying a handbag over the forearm or shoulder of the arm at risk.
  • Try to adhere to a normal, well balanced diet to keep weight within normal limits. This will have a beneficial effect on lymph drainage.
  • Try to use the limb normally, as muscle activity helps lymph drainage. Avoid any sudden strenuous movements such as pushing or lifting heavy objects using the arm at risk. If the leg is at risk then avoid standing still for long periods.
  • If undertaking long distance air travel, or other forms of travel which may involve lengthy periods of sitting, it is advisable to exercise the limb at risk during travel.

Who else can help?

There are causes of swelling other than lymphoedema, however swelling of any nature is much easier to treat in the early stages. It is important to see your doctor in order to determine the cause of the swelling.

All states have advisory services and lymphoedema treatment facilities.

  • State Lymphoedema Associations
  • Lymphoedema Association of Australia (based in Adelaide)
  • State Cancer Councils
  • Hospital Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Departments
  • Beiersdorf Australia Ltd

Compiled by:-

SANDRA KING, O.A.M., Occupational Therapist, Jobst Education Co-ordinator, Beiersdorf Australia Ltd.

ANNE FLETCHER R.N., Breast Care Consultant Breast Link Hawthorne, Queensland.

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