What is Lymph Drainage?
Lymphoedema is long term swelling of part or parts of a limb (or other body part), due to stagnation of fluid and protein in the tissues.
Lymphoedema occurs when the lymphatic system does not work properly and may occur if some lymph glands have been removed.
What causes it?
- Congenital or Primary issues where a person’s lymphatic system has been deficient since birth
- Lymphoedema may develop at birth, at puberty or later in life
- Secondary issues.
- The Lymphatic system can be damaged by scarring that follows Injury, Infection, Surgery or Radiotherapy. Most commonly Secondary Lymphoedema is related to treatment for Cancer related removal of lymph nodes surgically.
- Radiotherapy has a tendency to block nodes with fibrous tissue
- Accidental injuries may tear lymph vessels. Excess fibrous tissue caused by damage tends to shrink and constrict lymphatic vessels.
- Filarial worms may be injected into a human lymph vessel by a mosquito. These grow very large and block lymphatic vessels.
How can I help?
- I have over 20 years experience in getting alongside people who have developed Lymphoedema, teaching and supporting you to manage your Lymphoedema.
- I will measure and assess your Lymphoedema
- I will make an individualized plan with you to control and reduce your Lymphoedema.
Management of Lymphoedema involves a combination of modalities:
The Lymphatic System and how it works
- The Lymphatic System circulates right throughout the body.
- It’s function is to transport garbage out.
- The Lymphatics start in almost every tissue as tiny vessels which gradually join together into bigger ones.
- The lymph is pumped into and along them by contraction of adjacent muscles and by contraction of the walls of the larger Lymphatics.
- This pumping is aided by valves inside the vessels which prevent backflow.
- Finally the Lymph System empties into the Subclavian Vein at the base of the neck or Terminus.
- On it’s way along the Lymphatics the lymph is filtered in the lymphatic Nodes (or lymph glands), to remove foreign matter and to start any immune response.
If you know you are at risk of Lymphoedema the following pointers might assist you in preventing it from developing:
- Keep your skin well nourished and supple, avoiding dryness and cracking. Massage an aqueous cream into your skin.
- Avoid injuries and cover any minor injuries that do occur in an at risk limb to prevent infection occurring. Use antiseptic / antibiotic applications as per doctor’s instructions
- Encourage free circulation in an at risk limb by removing potentially constrictive clothing or jewellery
- Use an electric razor when shaving at risk areas (underarms or legs)
- Measure blood pressure on the unaffected arm
- Avoid straining your at risk limb by carrying heavy loads
- Build up slowly to regular exercise, avoiding strain
- Wear a good fitting compression garment on your at risk limb when flying or travelling in high altitude
- If you are unsure about the risks which may affect you, contact your trained Lymphoedema Therapist or the Cancer Society branch near you.
( Diagram of Lymphatic System)
Management of Lymphoedema
Management of Lymphoedema involves a combination of the following therapies:
- A suitable compression garment will be fitted for you to support lymph drainage from your affected limb or body part
- Skin Care
- The skin is kept supple and moisturized to enable maximum nutriment to the skin, preventing dryness and infection
- Self Massage
- A Self Massage plan to be performed daily, is taught. This promotes lymph drainage from the the troubled area.
- An exercise routine has been designed to promote lymph drainage.
(Diag. of the Swollen Limb)