Lymphoedema is estimated to affect 250,000 Australians. Lymphoedema is a condition that arises when the fluid of the lymphatic system accumulates in the spaces of the body, most commonly the arms but also the legs and feet. Lymphoedema is different to the more common swelling that occurs in your feet after a long day of standing, or from a sprained ankle. Lymphoedema swelling does not go away if you sit and merely raise a swollen limb. The swelling needs assistance to drain away.
There are two common causes of lymphoedema. Primary lymphoedema swelling arises when you are born with too few lymph glands to return the lymph fluid to the lymphatic system. Your lymph glands may also not work well enough and so the affected part of your body swells with the accumulation of extra lymph fluid. Secondary lymphoedema can arise after the lymph glands are either damaged or removed. The most common cause of secondary lymphoedema in the developed world are when the lymph glands are either removed or damaged by surgery or radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer.
In the developing world, an infestation of parasites may destroy the lymphatic system and cause a limb to swell dramatically.
The lymphatic system is important because it helps the body fight infections by filtering the blood system of large particles such as bacteria. If the lymphatic system is not working well, there is a great risk of a small infection turning into a nasty infection – cellulitis – that can spread throughout the body.
If you suffer from Lymphoedema you should consult our experienced podiatrists who can help you to control the problem by following a careful regime of exercise, light massage, breathing techniques and the use of compression garments. As with people who suffer from diabetes, those who suffer from lymphoedema should follow our general guide.
- Control swelling
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid barefoot walking
- Keep your feet clean
- Dry well between your toes
- Wear well fitted shoes
- Cut and file toe nails carefully
- Have corns, calluses and other foot problems treated by your podiatrist.
- Visit and follow the advice of your Lymphoedema therapist.
Copies of The Lymphoedema Handbook may be purchased directly from the Lymphoedema Association, ph 1300852850.