Lymphatic Drainage for Lymphoedema: A Comprehensive Guide

In the UK, there are more than 200,000 patients with Lymphoedema being secondary lymphoedema the most common one. Lymphoedema is a chronic condition, but with proper holistic treatment – meds and manual lymphatic drainage-you can continue with your normal daily life activities. In this blog, you can find what lymphoedema is, its types, symptoms and how lymphatic drainage massage can help. Lets begin…

What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition characterized by swelling- the accumulation of excessive amounts of protein-rich fluid- in your body’s tissues. It is usually seen in the arms, legs or genital area, although it can occur anywhere. 

What causes the swelling in lymphoedema?

The swelling is caused by a failure of your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system and is responsible for draining excess fluid and fighting infections, viruses, germs, etc. There are two main types of lymphoedema: 

  • Primary lymphoedema is caused by a genetic malformation in any part of your lymphatic system (vessels, nodes, etc.). It can start during infancy, adolescence or early adulthood.
  • Secondary lymphoedema is caused by damage in any part of your lymphatic system ( lymph nodes or lymphatic vessels) or lymph fluid movement difficulties. The damage can be caused by various factors such as surgery, radiotherapy, trauma, or infections.

Other causes include:

  • Cancer. It happens when cancer cells block lymph vessels. In other words, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could enlarge enough to block the flow of the lymph fluid.
  • Radiation treatment for cancer. It can cause scarring and inflammation of lymphatic nodes or  vessels.
  • Node extraction (Surgery). In some cancer patients, some lymph nodes need to be removed to see if the disease has spread. 
  • Parasites. In tropical developing countries, the most common cause of lymphedema is infection, where threadlike worms clog the lymph nodes.

What are the symptoms of lymphoedema?

Main symptoms of lymphoedema are:

  • Swelling (in part of a limb or the entire one, also in another part of the body).
  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness
  • An aching feeling
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Recurring skin infections
  • Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)
  • folds developing in the skin
  • fluid leaking through the skin

Take into account that signs (symptoms) of lymphoedema can range from mild to severe. If  Lymphoedema is  caused by cancer treatment, it may not occur until months or years after your treatment.

Are there risk factors?

Factors that contribute in the development of this condition are:

  • Older age
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis

What are the complications of lymphoedema?

Some of them are:

  • Skin infections (cellulitis). The trapped fluid is the perfect environment for germs, and the smallest injury to the affected area can be an entry point for infection. So if you notice swollen, red and painful skin which is warm to the touch you have an infection. Visit your GP, she/he  may prescribe antibiotics and start taking them immediately.
  • Sepsis. When cellulitis is not treated, it spreads to your bloodstream leading to sepsis (a life threatening condition that happens when your body is trying to respond to an infection and damages your own tissues). It requires immediate medical treatment.
  • Skin changes. Some patients with severe lymphedema show thicken and harden skin (elephant skin).
  • Cancer. A rare form of soft tissue cancer can result from the most-severe cases of untreated lymphedema.

How can Lymphatic Drainage Massage help with Lymphoedema?

Lymphatic drainage massage is key in your  treatment for lymphoedema. It will help you to:

  • As a decongestive  therapy to move the lymph.
  • Reduce swelling. Lymphatic drainage massage helps move lymph fluid from the swollen areas into the nearest lymph nodes ( fluid is drained) and, then, is spelled through urine, reducing the swelling in the affected limb.
  • Increase lymphatic flow. The gentle massage techniques stimulate the flow of lymph fluid through the lymphatic system.
  • Complementary treatment: Lymphatic drainage massage is often used in combination with other lymphoedema treatments like compression garments, exercise, and even some surgical procedures to help prepare the affected area and maximize the effectiveness of those treatments.
  • Relax
  • Improve your life quality and rage of motion.

If you need advice or have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us in Mill Hill and Islington. We are always glad to help. If you like this blog, please share!


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