What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a swelling which occurs when the body’s lymphatic system is not functioning well.
What causes lymphoedema?
Primary lymphoedema can be due to a genetic issue or incompetent lymph vessels.
Primary lymphoedema can therefore become apparent at birth, during puberty or later in life.
Secondary Lymphoedema is due to blocked or severed lymph nodes or vessels. THis can arise due to some external force or disease. The most common causes of secondary lymphoedema are surgery, radiotherapy, accidental trauma, paralysis parasites and chronic venous insufficiency. By far the most common of these causes in the western world is from surgery for the removal of cancer.
Can lymphoedema be treated?
Yes. However it must be acknowledged that lymphoedema is an ongoing condition with no “cure” as such. That is, once the lymph nodes are blocked or damaged they will not regenerate.
What does treatment do?
Treatment can greatly reduce the swelling and maintain the resulting reduction, so that the body part may function normally.
What does the treatment involve?
Complex physical therapy (or CPT) is the name of the treatment program. It achieves the fastest and longest lasting result for lymphoedema sufferers. This type of treatment is also helpful in the treatment of Lipoedema, a hereditary condition which can lead to an abnormal accumulation of fat under the skin.
Your treatment at ASMYT will comprise several components:
Lymphatic drainage massage
Compression bandaging /garments, and/or lymph taping
Lymphoedema drainage exercises, which may include hydrotherapy
Patient education and diet guidelines are encouraged
Maintaining your reduced swelling after CPT relies on being well educated in all facets of the treatment so that you can become self clearing.
It has been shown that adding laser therapy and intermittent pneumatic compression to CPT can also help in the treatment of lymphoedema.
What is laser therapy?
Laser stands for Light Amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation.
What does Laser Therapy Do?
Using a scanning laser, the patient receives a beam of light passed over the skin of the affected limb. The light energy is absorbed by the mitocondria of the cells, and can speed up healing. The energy created by the laser stimulates the body's tissues , reducing pain and swelling. It breaks down fibrous tissues and reduces pain by having a direct effect on nerve ends. The laser treatment time can vary up to one hour and accompanies a lymphatic drainage massage. Patients require less lymphoedema drainage massage and less compression bandaging and garments, if they also receive laser therapy.
Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC )
Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC ) devices are pressure-controlled pumps based on the same principles as manual lymphatic drainage techniques. Any lymphatic condition concerning swelling or compromised veins can be treated with an IPC device. The IPC device has an inflatable sleeve or sock-like garment attached that has multiple chambers ( like balloons ). The chambers inflate one after the other to stimulate the flow of lymph, thus reducing swelling in the affected limb.