Lymphoedema is a swelling of any part of the body, due to the build up of lymph fluid. The 2 categories of this are:
Primary Lymphoedema - the client may have been born with an inefficient lymphatic system – swelling can occur anytime during life.
Secondary Lymphoedema - usually as a result of surgery i.e lymph node removal or radiotherapy as part of cancer treatment. It can also be due to an accident.
CDT (combined decongestive therapy) is used to treat lymphoedema. This follows the 4 cornerstones of treatment as set out in the Macmillan report (1984) - skincare, exercises, bandaging (or compression) and MLD.
Treatment of lymphoedema can only be carried out by a fully qualified Lymphoedema Practitioner. The therapist will redirect fluid away from swollen areas towards healthy lymph nodes which can effectively drain via the liver and kidneys.
After an initial consultation lasting up to 1.5 hrs a course of treatment will be discussed. In severe cases a course of intensive treatments may be needed. This involves MLD and bandaging on a daily basis for 2-3 weeks (depending on individual results). This may then need to be followed up by regular weekly/monthly treatments.
This is a system of strong non-elastic bandages providing a rigid casing for the muscles to work against. This is used to reduce limb size and restore shape.
Part way through the intensive phase a client will be measured for a compression garment. This will prevent further swelling. They provide firm resistance to the tissues, encouraging movement of the lymphatic fluid during muscle activity. This is worn during the day and removed at night.
Garments/bandages may be available on the NHS.