What is Lymphodema:
Lymphodema is the build up of lymph fluid that causes swelling in the body. Lymph fluid is in all our body tissues, it comes from tiny blood vessels and enters into the body tissues. It should drain back into the bloodstream through channels called lymph vessels. So if these lymph vessels get blocked, removed or damaged the lymph fluid can not re-enter the bloodstream causing the swelling. Lymphodema mostly effects the arms and legs of a patient but can also develop in other places around the body.
Lymphodema is a long-term condition which can not be cured although it can be controlled.
How to lower your risk of Lymphodoema:
Keeping healthy and having a healthy diet lowers your risk of lymphodema, because research shows being very obese can increase your risk. Exercising regularly and moving shows to reduce your risk of lymphodema. Looking after your skin where you may get any cuts or marks and making sure you do not get an infection reduces your risk, as trauma to the skin can increase your risk. If you can avoid needles or pricking the skin where you’ve had treatment for lymph nodes, you should because these could be a trigger for the swelling.
Symptoms of Lymphodema:
One of the first symptoms of lymphodema is swelling. You may notice this if your clothes get tighter or your jewelry gets tighter. There are many other reasons or causes for swelling but if your swelling does not go away it is important to contact your doctor. The swelling may be easy to push, leaving a dent if you lean on the area. Other symptoms include heaviness or feeling tight and stiff. You may also experience a numb feeling, pins and needles, your skin becoming red, a change of shape in the particular body area, a change of texture in your skin and watery fluid leaking from your skin.
Helpful Tips for Physical Activity-
- Try and use the at risk limb as normally as possible
- Keep you weight within normal limits as increased weight can increase pressure on your lymphatic system.
- Always do your warm up and cool downs
- Avoid over extending your at risk limbs
- Avoid staying in the same position for too long.
Looking after your skin when you have Lymphodema:
- Keep your skin dry and clean.
- Moisturise your skin at least once a day.
- Clean any cuts you may get straight away and then put antiseptic cream on them and keep them covered to avoid infection.
- Protect your skin from the sun.
- If you get bitten or stung by an insect do not scratch it just put the recommend cream on it.
- Avoid hot baths, saunas, ect. as this can increase your swelling, also avoid extreme weather conditions.
- Do not wear anything that is to tight for you.
- If your legs are swollen avoid standing or sitting in the one place for to long of a period.
Useful resources for lymphoedema-
Lymphoedema Ireland – Support, information and other resources available for people living with lymphoedema in Ireland
- Helpline – 0876934964
Plurabelle Paddlers -The Plurabelle Paddlers is a dragon boat team based in the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin, Ireland. The team members have one thing in common, they have been diagnosed with breast cancer and have set up a dragon boat team to get fit. Its a great support network and the regular exercises reduces your risk of developing lymphoedema.
Manual Lymph Drainage Ireland – A professional organisation of healthcare practitioners who provide treatment in the management of lymphoedema.
The Lymphoedema Support Network – a UK based education and support system for people with lymphoedema