The Island's Lymphoedema Service is based at Earl Mountbatten Hospice. The service is available to anyone who is registered with a GP, and is not limited to patients with cancer.
What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a condition which causes swelling in the body's tissue. This is usually in the arms and legs and it is caused by a faulty lymphatic system. The lymphatic system should drain excess fluid from the tissues but, if it's disrupted or damaged, it can lose this ability and any excess fluid will cause the tissue to swell. This swelling may cause chronic tissue inflammation and eventually lead to the formation of connective fibres.
Lymphoedema is usually caused as a result of cancer or treatment for cancer, such as surgery or radiotherapy, but people who do not have cancer can also get lymphoedema. Some are born with the condition, or develop it later in life due to the lymphatic system not developing properly. It can develop if reccurent cellulitis or vascular problems are present, following trauma from accidents or surgery, or when a person's movement is limited in conditions such as multiple scelrosis, stroke or in the elderly. It is a condition that cannot usually be cured, but can be treated.
Types of treatment
Early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference in helping to control lymphoedema. Regular and careful skin care helps to keep the skin in good condition, as well as prevent the skin changes that can occur with lymphoedema and prevent infection (e.g. cellulitis and fungal infections)
Compression garments and bandages are made of a firm elasticated material and apply pressure to the skin while providing support to reduce swelling. Garments should cover all of the swollen area, encouraging fluid to move towards the centre of the body. Garments should also be comfortable to wear.
Lymph flow depends on muscles working like a pump to encourage drainage and prevent pooling. Breathing exercises stimulate the deep lymphatics. Daily activities and exercises can maintain strength, range of movement and reduce swelling. It is important to wear the compression garment when doing activities and exercising.
Lymphatic massage is a specialised form of massage that helps the excess fluid to move out of the swollen areas and into parts of the body where it can drain away normally. Massage can cover simple lymphatic drainage as well as manual lymphatic drainage - often used as a more intensive treatment programme.
What does the Lymphoedema Service offer?Our expert staff will offer you a full assessment and provide information on skin care, use of compression garments, help with exercise and a specialist form of massage.
Following assessment, your treatment will be tailored to your individual needs. You may be provided with intensive treatment, a maintenance programme or a self-management programme.