What can I expect when I get my first garment?

Your healthcare professional will ask you to wear your compression garment daily.

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What can I expect when I get my first garment?

Once you and your healthcare professional are both happy with the choice of compression garment, your affected limb (and/or body part) is measured. The number of measurements taken depends upon the type of compression garment selected and whether it is a custom-made (made-to-measure) garment or a ready-to-wear (off-the-shelf) garment. Your measurements are then recorded on an order form. If it is a ready-to-wear garment, they are used to determine which size garment is to be ordered. If it is a custom-made garment, your measurements will be sent to the manufacturer so that your bespoke garment can be manufactured to your individual measurements. 

If you are getting your garment on prescription, you will need a prescription from either your GP or nurse prescriber. The GP may need additional information from the healthcare professional who has measured you for the garment, in order to write the prescription. You then can choose how to get your garment on prescription. For example, you can take your prescription to your high-street pharmacy or send it to a postal prescription service provider who specialises in compression garment orders, and they can deliver it to your home or to the clinic. Note: if it is a custom-made order, they will need the measuring form! It normally takes a few days before your compression garment is ready to collect, or is delivered, as these are not stocked items. 

These are specialist compression garments and it is important that you receive the garment your healthcare professional has ordered for the management of your lymphoedema. When you receive your garment, look at it closely and check it against either your prescription or the information from your healthcare professional, and contact them if you have any queries.

The first time you receive your garment, your healthcare professional is likely to want to help you with the initial fitting, to ensure it fits correctly and you are comfortable with how to put it on. Correct application of the garment is important. Your healthcare professional may have ordered an aid to assist you in putting the garment on. They will teach you how to apply the garment and how to remove it. The healthcare professional will also demonstrate how to evenly distribute the material over your limb to ensure you get the best fit. Finally, they will talk you through how to care for your garment (e.g. laundering).

Your healthcare professional will ask you to wear your compression garment daily (usually removing it at bed time) and evaluate its effect. By the time you have your first review with your healthcare professional, you should hopefully have noticed a difference e.g. your swollen limb(s) being more comfortable, the swelling maintained and possibly even smaller! In the event of your compression garment causing problems (e.g. loss of sensation, too tight, uncomfortable etc.) you should remove the garment immediately and contact your healthcare professional.

Over time, you will become more knowledgeable about the use of compression and what types and styles are available. This will then allow you to participate more actively in the garment selection, providing you with more control in managing your own condition.

Remember LymphConnect has lots of information about compression garments. Sharing information with others in the community forum is another way to learn more! 

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RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

How can I alleviate the swelling if I can’t wear compression stockings?

Managing a swelling if you...

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How can I alleviate the swelling if I can’t wear compression stockings?

Managing a swelling if you are unable to tolerate compression stockings (garments) can be challenging.  

There are many different types of compression products available – different types of materials, strengths (pressure applied, known as compression classes), styles (e.g. a garment that finishes at the knee), compression that you can just wear at night-time, etc. Here are some examples of potential problems and solutions:

  • intolerance (or allergy) to one type of material, there may be another product (with a different material) that you can wear
  • unable to put on a compression garment (or ‘stocking’) without an appropriate aid to help you, then a ‘wrap’ compression system may be suitable
  • unable to wear compression during the day, you may be able to tolerate a night-time compression garment 

Compression garments (or stockings) may feel tight and restrictive – especially when you are using them for the first time. If this is the case, then wearing a garment with a lower strength (known as compression class) or ordering a larger size, may help. Over time you can build up to the compression level or garment that is indicated for your condition to ensure you have effective long-term management. Using an Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC) pump can also help you ‘get used’ to wearing a compression garment. The IPC can be used at very low pressures, gradually increasing it over time so that compression garments can eventually be tolerated more easily. Compression bandaging is another option, as it can be applied with very light pressure/support. However, bandaging does need to be applied, and replaced regularly, by a trained healthcare professional.

However, it may be that compression therapy is contraindicated. For example, you may have an acute infection (cellulitis), a wound or have other conditions that mean compression therapy is not medically safe (e.g. peripheral vascular disease).  So, in the first instance, it is important to discuss all the options available to you with your healthcare professional or lymphoedema practitioner. Compression is one of the corner stones of care for lymphoedema management. However, if it is not suitable, and all compression options have been exhausted, then alternatives need to be considered. Some of the suggestions below may be helpful.

  • Gentle, regular exercise and movement, such as yoga or Tai Chi, is important as this helps improve lymphatic drainage. Water therapy may also be helpful as the hydrostatic pressure replaces the action of the compression garment. Circulation booster machines may be helpful if mobility is limited
  • Elevation of the affected area when at rest – ideally raise the limb as high as possible (without putting strain on supporting joints/muscles). Use a reclining chair or foot stool with pillows to help leg swelling; a pillow on the armchair/sofa to support an arm. Try to do remedial exercises whilst sitting. For example, ankle circling for a leg swelling, fist pumps for an arm swelling
  • Deep breathing can help the deeper lymphatic system to drain more efficiently – ask your healthcare professional or lymphoedema practitioner to demonstrate this
  • Keeping the skin/tissues soft and supple helps to reduce the risk of infection (cellulitis)
  • Try to protect the affected limb as much as possible against trauma/injury. Promptly treat any cuts, scratches and grazes, etc
  • Elastic adhesive taping (taping often used for sports injuries) maybe an option and your healthcare professional can show you how to apply this yourself. It may not be suitable or helpful for everyone, but may offer benefits for some. Speak to your healthcare professional for more information. Note: it is not available on prescription.

Click here for more information about compression therapy. 

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Are there any contraindications for having MLD?

There are certain times when...

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Are there any contraindications for having MLD?

There are certain times when the Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is not recommended or contraindicated (a condition that makes a particular treatment/procedure unadvisable). These include:

  • Whilst undergoing active cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is best to wait until such treatment has been completed (usually between 4-6 weeks)
  • During an acute infection (cellulitis) when the affected area is red, inflamed, more swollen and painful. Antibiotics are a priority at such times. Once the acute phase is over (after a few days of taking antibiotics, and the pain, inflammation has reduced), MLD can be re-introduced
  • A recent history of thrombosis (DVT) or tuberculosis
  • Untreated acute heart problems and renal failure. Once treatment has been initiated and the medical staff are in agreement, MLD can be introduced if appropriate to do so

It is very important that your trained practitioner is made aware and kept up-to-date with your current medical condition at every visit to ensure that it is safe to perform MLD. So, remember to inform him or her of any changes to your medical condition and general health before each session. This also includes any changes to medication.

For more information about MLD, click here.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Are there other types of swelling?

There are other types of swelling that should not be forgotten about.

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Are there other types of swelling?

There are other types of swelling that should not be forgotten about.

Lipoedema
Often confused with lymphoedema, lipoedema is an adipose tissue disorder or abnormal accumulation of fatty tissue. It affects mostly women, often developing around the time of a hormonal change (i.e. puberty, pregnancy or menopause). The condition leads to tissue enlargement most commonly around the legs, hips and/or buttocks. Unlike lymphoedema, the enlargement usually stops at the ankles and the feet are spared. However, it tends to be in both legs. It mostly affects the lower limb but can develop in the arm (the hands are usually spared). It often leads to a sensation of the limbs being ‘heavy and tight’ and the skin may be tender to touch, cooler than unaffected areas, sensitive and/or bruise easily. Despite dieting or increasing physical activity, the volume of the limb does not decrease and there is a distinct disproportion between the limbs and the trunk. Those who have had lipoedema for many years often develop a lymphatic component, as the fatty tissues tend to obstruct lymphatic drainage. This is known as lipo-lymphoedema. The surface of the skin is more uneven, there may be ridges of fat under the skin, the limb is more distorted and mobility may be inmpaired.

Lymphovenous oedema
This condition results in both the venous and lymphatic systems not functioning adequately due to an underlying venous problem/disease and results in a swelling. When valves weaken or there are abnormalities in the venous walls, blood can flow backwards and increase the pressure in the veins, known as venous hypertension. If venous hypertension is sustained over time, the vein walls stretch and the valves no longer close. This further increases hypertension which can lead to a pooling of blood, discomfort and varicose veins. The common signs are staining of the skin, spider veins and varicose veins. A swelling occurs when the increase in lymphatic flow to the area is much greater than the lymph transport capacity.

Click here to learn more about the types of lymphoedema.

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RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

How can I find a specialist in lymphoedema?

A specialist in lymphoedema is a healthcare professional who has been appropriately trained to treat people with lymphoedema and often referred to as a ‘practitioner’.

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How can I find a specialist in lymphoedema?




A specialist in lymphoedema is a healthcare professional who has been appropriately trained to treat people with lymphoedema and often referred to as a ‘practitioner’. They have obtained appropriate specialist qualifications and usually attend update courses every two years. 

Many practitioners are members of the British Lymphology Society (BLS) and/or MLDUK. The BLS maintains a directory of lymphoedema services, the treatments offered and whether it is a private or NHS service. It is important to note that they only include this information when proof of training has been submitted. Visit: thebls.com/directories for more information. The Lymphoedema Support Network (LSN) also holds a list of specialist lymphoedema services in the UK.

MLDUK is an association of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) practitioners. MLDUK members must have completed one of the recognised MLD qualifications and practitioners are required to attend a review class at least every two years. Visit www.mld.org.uk for more information.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Who should diagnose me?

Many people experience swelling for months, even years, before assessment, diagnosis and treatment are initiated.

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Who should diagnose me?

It is recommended you visit your GP if you experience the typical symptoms of lymphoedema and are concerned you may have the condition. Your GP may refer you to a specialist lymphoedema treatment centre for further assessment. There are a number of lymphoedema clinics throughout the UK, with healthcare professionals who specialise in lymphoedema. Visit the British Lymphology Society (BLS) website for a directory of lymphoedema treatment services https://thebls.com/directories.  It is important to note, that the BLS only list the healthcare professional’s details once proof of training has been submitted.  The Lymphoedema Support Network (LSN) also maintains a list of specialists lymphoedema services in the UK, visit their website for more details at https://www.lymphoedema.org/index.php/information-for-health-care-professionals/no-specialist-service-in-my-area

Unfortunately, there is no single official diagnostic criteria for determining if someone has lymphoedema. This becomes even more complicated if you have primary lymphoedema where the symptoms may have been present since birth, or have been around for a long period of time, and gradually worsened. There are some diagnostic or imaging tests that can be performed to help with diagnosis. However, a thorough and full assessment, including a physical examination and history of symptoms are key, and typically all that is used for a correct diagnosis.

Click here to learn more about the signs and symptoms of lymphoedema.

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RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What is lymphoedema?

A condition impacting millions, known by few.

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What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema, pronounced [lim-fa-dee-mah] is a life-long, chronic condition in which excess fluid collects in the tissues causing a swelling, known as oedema. The swelling maybe caused by the absence of lymph vessels, damage or obstruction of the lymphatic system or because the lymphatic system is overloaded (due to other conditions such as venous disease).  

The lymphatics form part of your immune system, helping to deal with infection at a local level, but just as importantly, they are responsible for cleansing your tissues and maintaining a balance of fluids in your body. It can be likened to a waste disposal system, taking tissue fluid, bacteria, proteins and waste products away from the tissues around the skin, fat, muscle and bone. If, for whatever reason, the lymphatic system is not working correctly (such as a result of damage, trauma or surgery), or the vessels do not have the ability to drain adequately, the fluid in the tissues builds up (as when a river is dammed and flooding occurs). Swelling occurs when the amount of fluid in an area is greater than the capacity of the lymphatic system to transport it away. Lymphoedema can therefore be defined as “an abnormal accumulation of protein rich fluid in the tissues”. The swelling can be in any part of the body, most often in the arms and legs, but also the breast or chest wall, head and neck, or genitals.

Click here to learn more about the lymphatic system.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What is the Lymphatic System?

A significant number of people are simply not aware that besides the blood circulation system, the body has another circulation system – the lymphatic system.

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What is the Lymphatic System?

Whenever we hear “lymph…” most of us immediately think of lymph nodes. We know that we have them in the neck and groin, for example, and that they can become swollen when our bodies are fighting an infection. This is certainly true but not the whole story. The lymph nodes, which are present throughout our body (there are several hundreds of them) are part of an interconnected lymphatic system.

Your lymphatic system runs throughout your entire body and is parallel to the venous and arterial system (commonly known as the bloodstream). However, unlike your veins, the lymphatic system is not a closed system and has no central pump (i.e. your heart). It consists of hundreds of lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and lymph capillaries spread throughout the body in a similar way to blood vessels. You can think of the lymphatic system as a "waste disposal system" system for the body, taking tissue fluid, bacteria, proteins and waste products, away from the tissues around the skin, fat, muscle and bone, filtering it and then returning it back to the blood circulation. Your lymphatic system serves an important immune role to help prevent spread of infection, or even cancer cells, as the lymph nodes contain defence cells (infection-fighting cells) called lymphocytes, which attack and break down bacteria. The lymphatic system has three main functions, fight infection, drain excess fluid and lipid (fat) absorption. Without a functioning lymphatic system, you could not live. Lymphoedema occurs when the lymphatic system is partially defective.

Click here to learn more about the types of lymphoedema.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What does treatment look like for lymphoedema?

There are many reasons why lymphoedema may develop.

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What does treatment look like for lymphoedema?

There are many reasons why lymphoedema may develop - so before successful treatment can begin, it is essential that you are assessed by an appropriately trained healthcare professional who can determine the underlying cause of the swelling (or oedema).

This may on occasion, involve certain blood tests and /or other investigations to rule out other exacerbating features or comorbidities (presence of one or more additional conditions). For example, the swelling may be caused and/or worsened by a heart problem and unless this is appropriately treated, the swelling will never reduce, no matter what treatment is put in place to help the swelling.

Once a diagnosis of lymphoedema is confirmed, your healthcare professional will discuss the main problems you have relating to your swelling. Everyone is different, so once specific, individual goals and objectives are identified an individual plan of care will be drawn up to help you. For example, your goal maybe to improve your mobility or be able to wear shoes.

The lymphoedema care plan will involve treatment containing components of care that are pieced together (like a jigsaw) to address the specific problems you may have. The care components commonly include:

  • Skin care – a daily regimen to keep your skin in good condition and free from infection (e.g. cellulitis) which is a complication of lymphoedema
  • Exercise (or movement) - of the affected limb is important to assist lymph drainage. It also helps to improve posture, balance and walking, all of which can be affected by your lymphoedema
  • Compression therapy – comes in a variety of forms (e.g. bandages or garments) and helps to reduce the overall shape and size of the affected area and then maintain/optimise it moving forward
  • Lymphatic drainage - a specific massage technique used to improve lymphatic flow, moving fluid out of affected areas. This is done by a trained practitioner. A simplified form of treatment called Simple (or Self) Lymphatic Drainage (SLD) is commonly taught to patients and/or relatives and carers so that the technique can be continued at home
  • Psychological support – lymphoedema affects people in very different ways and the practitioner will help you to cope with the diagnosis and find ways (both physically and emotionally) to deal with the effects of this long-term condition

Other care components may be introduced as time goes by if necessary.

The treatment plan may seem daunting at first, but your healthcare professional will help, support and guide you. In time, most people find they are able to adapt their daily routine to manage their condition.

And remember, your LymphConnect community is also here to help you!

Click here for more information about lymphoedema management.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a specialised massage technique.

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What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a specialised massage technique, carried out by trained practitioners, who perform rhythmical and pumping hand movements to stretch the skin and stimulate the lymphatic system to drain more efficiently.

It is generally performed in the ‘intensive’ phase of Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT). Typically, you are seen by your practitioner frequently over several weeks to try to reduce the severity of the swelling. It is used in combination with other components of care, such as compression (e.g. bandaging, wrap compression systems, garments/hosiery), skin care, exercise, education, psychological support etc.

The aim of MLD is to redirect lymph fluid away from swollen areas towards the healthy lymphatics, which are free from swelling. Fluid will then drain back into the circulation using alternative routes. It is particularly useful when swelling involves areas of the body where compression garments cannot easily be worn, such as the armpit, breast, chest, back, abdomen, genitals, head and neck.

MLD can also help to

  • Reduce the hardness of the tissues (fibrosis)
  • Improve the condition of scars
  • Help reduce pain and/or discomfort

Session times vary according to the severity and extent of the lymphoedema but generally a session lasts around 45-60 minutes. Unlike traditional massage techniques, cream and/or oil is not used during the treatment (though they may be applied afterwards).

Once your trained practitioner has reduced as much fluid as possible from the affected area, you will move to the maintenance/optimisation (also known as the long-term management) phase of treatment.

At this point you will generally be wearing a compression garment or a wrap compression system and will have the skills to self-manage your swelling (as instructed during the ‘intensive’ therapy stage). This may, if necessary and/or appropriate, include a simplified form of MLD – Simple (or self) Lymphatic Drainage (SLD). SLD is based upon the principals of MLD and will help you to self-manage your condition on a long-term basis.

MLD can be a very important part of your lymphoedema management but it is important to note that not everyone requires it.  And unfortunately, MLD is not always available on the NHS. Many clinics have a set criteria about who is eligible to have it, some providing several sessions and others none. However, if your clinic is unable to provide it or you need extra sessions, private practitioners are available to help (visit: www.mlduk.org.uk). Do ensure, however, that you use a practitioner that is appropriately and fully trained to help you.

For more information about MLD, click here

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What types of compression are there?

Finding the right compression for you is very important...

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What types of compression are there?

Compression for the treatment of lymphoedema and long-term, chronic swellings is available in different forms. The extent, severity and complexity of your condition and stage of treatment will determine the type of compression used. Finding the right compression for you is very important as compression must be worn long-term to manage your swelling. 

These are the most common forms of compression therapy used in lymphoedema: 

Compression bandages  

  • Mostly used in the Intensive Phase of Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT). The bandages are usually applied by a healthcare professional and are kept in place all day and night. The full treatment period for DLT is usually between 2-4 weeks, however, the bandages are changed regularly during this time
  • Bandaging is used alongside other therapies such as Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), skin care and exercise, and possibly other therapies as indicated by your healthcare professional
  • Bandaging reduces the swelling and improves the shape of the limb so that compression garments can be used during the next phase of treatment. It also helps to improve skin condition and heal any wounds that are present
  • It is important to note however, that not everyone with lymphoedema requires compression bandaging

Compression garments 

  • Used following DLT and in the long-term management (or maintenance) phase of lymphoedema. At this stage of treatment, the swelling has been reduced and the limb shape improved, making compression garments a suitable option
  • Compression garments (sometimes referred to as ‘stockings’ or ‘hosiery’) are considered to be the main-stay of treatment for the management of lymphoedema. They are often used as a ‘first-line treatment’ when the lymphoedema is diagnosed as not being ‘severe’ or ‘complex’ 
  • Compression garments are not as bulky as bandaging or wrap compression systems, making them more discreet and hopefully, allowing you to wear your usual clothing and shoes, adapting to your lifestyle, so that you can continue with your normal daily activities

Compression garments vary considerably and are ‘knitted’ in different ways to manage the differing stages of lymphoedema. They come in a wide variety of strengths, styles and colours 

Your healthcare professional will talk you through the different options available and guide you to the best possible garment to help manage your condition on a long-term basis

Wrap Compression Systems

  • Used in the management of lymphoedema in both phase 1 of DLT and phase 2, the long-term management phase
  • The VELCRO® hook-and-loop fasteners secure the wrap in place around the hand, arm, foot or leg. This makes them easy to apply and remove
  • Wrap compression systems are useful if you have problems applying bandages or garments and/or cannot tolerate them. They can help in maintaining independence where other compression choices may have failed
  • They can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with compression garments

Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC)

  • A mechanical compression device that is usually used in conjunction with bandages, garments or wrap compression systems during the intensive phase of DLT
  • Some patients purchase their own device to help manage their condition in the long-term management phase
  • An IPC is essentially an air driven pump that is attached to a garment with sequential inflatable pockets within it. When activated, the pockets inflate and deflate according to how the machine has been set up. It compresses the limb in sequential waves, mechanically squeezing and ‘massaging’ the limb as it moves along. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) or Self Lymphatic Drainage (SLD) is usually recommended before use and compression (in whatever form) after use

Compression therapy can be daunting, especially if you have recently been diagnosed, but your healthcare professional will help guide and support you. It may take a few attempts before you find the ideal compression therapy solution to meet your needs. Compression therapy is very beneficial in helping you to manage your condition and greatly reduces your risk of complications.

Click here to read a BLOG about Rachel. Finding the right compression garment changed the way she viewed managing her condition. 

To learn more about compression in lymphoedema treatment, click here.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

How can I manage my diabetes and lymphoedema?

Damaged blood vessels are a potential complication of diabetes ...

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How can I manage my diabetes and lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema and diabetes

Damaged blood vessels are a potential complication of diabetes or uncontrolled diabetes and lymphoedema is the result of failure or overload of the lymphatic system. Together, these two conditions may result in damage to both the arterial and lymphatic systems, and lead to skin and tissues problems if not managed correctly. For example, swelling of the legs, will decrease the levels of oxygen and nutrients going to the skin and tissues, and increase the susceptibility to further complications such as, cellulitis. 

Treatment of these two conditions

Anyone with both diabetes and lymphoedema faces special health challenges and must take extra care in managing these conditions to minimise complications. Having a basic understanding of both conditions is therefore helpful for long term, successful management.

Lymphoedema treatment itself may need to be modified to accommodate the effects of diabetes.

Skin care

Daily skin care is essential. Moisturise the skin with a bland cream or lotion to keep the skin and tissues soft, supple and free from infection. Moisturising and using a soap-free cleanser to keep the skin clean may also help to minimise itching. However, take care when choosing your products as those with diabetes often find their skin becomes thin, dry and fragile. Ask your healthcare professional for advice, if necessary. Ensure the affected limbs are dried carefully (pat the skin dry rather than rub it) and pay special attention to the areas between the fingers and toes. Check for fungal infections and treat quickly to prevent bacterial infections taking hold.

Nail and foot care

Keeping the nails and feet in good condition is very important. A podiatrist (healthcare professional trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the feet) can help with common foot problems and give advice on day-to-day foot care, shoes, mobility etc. It is worth finding out if you are entitled to podiatrist treatments on the NHS, as they will help to ensure you are keeping your nails and feet in good condition. If you cut your own nails, take care not to cut the surrounding skin and treat with antiseptic lotion if necessary. Check your feet for signs of infection and seek medical advice promptly if you are concerned. 

Injections

If the swollen limb has to be used for blood samples, ensure the skin around the injection site is cleaned before and after the procedure. Some people with diabetes require additional insulin, either by injection or via an insulin pump. Ideally, injections should not be done in lymphoedema-affected tissues, therefore ask your healthcare professional to recommend safe injection sites. 

Compression

Compression is an essential component of lymphoedema management and is available in different forms, e.g. bandaging, garments or Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (IPC). However, for those diagnosed with diabetes and lymphoedema, it needs careful consideration. Individuals with diabetes may develop peripheral neuropathy (as a result of peripheral nerve damage) which means the ability to feel pain, temperature changes or trauma is reduced. Therefore, before applying any compression, a full and thorough assessment by a trained healthcare professional needs to be completed, particularly to detect any circulatory problems and peripheral neuropathy. The use of high-quality, medical compression garments is recommended to improve the blood and lymphatic flow, in order to manage the swelling. Careful selection of the most appropriate compression garment(s), to address any skin irritation or circulatory problems, can help manage both conditions.

Weight Management

Keeping weight within normal limits is important for patients with diabetes and lymphoedema. Eating the right foods has an impact on energy levels and overall well-being, but there is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’ or ‘lymphoedema food plan’!  Those with diabetes need to be guided by their healthcare professional in regards to a healthy, balanced diet that helps them manage their diabetes, and following the suggested guidelines will definitely help both conditions. Drinking plenty of water (as opposed to sugary drinks and alcohol) will also help.

Exercise

Maintaining a healthy weight can also be helped by regular exercise which is also important in managing lymphoedema as it improves venous and lymphatic drainage. For those with diabetes regular exercise may also1:

  • To reduce any stress levels, symptoms of depression and/or anxiety
  • Help the body to use insulin more efficiently 
  • Increase the amount of glucose used by the muscles for energy, which may sometimes help lower blood sugar levels
  • Improve diabetes management (particularly for those with type 2 diabetes) 
  • Strengthen bones
  • Help Improve sleep

Dealing with a diagnosis of lymphoedema and diabetes, managing it and making changes to your lifestyle can take time. In time, you will find yourself adjusting to this new way of life and you’ll notice just how much more confident you’ve become in your ability to cope with the demands that both conditions can throw at you.

To learn more about the management of lymphoedema, click here and to learn more about diabetes, you may want to visit the Diabetes UK website at https://www.diabetes.org.uk/. It is also important to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional to understand how to manage both conditions.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.

Reference

1. The British Diabetic Association, operating as Diabetes UK. 2019. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/exercise


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Is there a cure for lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema has no known cure.

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Is there a cure for lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema has no known cure. However, with correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment, there is much that can be done to help manage and effectively control the symptoms. Left untreated, the condition will deteriorate leading to an increase in swelling. Many people experience swelling for months, even years, before assessment, diagnosis and treatment are initiated. It is important to understand the condition so you can manage your lymphoedema as effectively as possible.

Click here to learn more about the types of lymphoedema.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Why is compression beneficial?

Compression therapy is a readily available, non-invasive, extensively researched, widely used therapy in the management of lymphoedema, chronic oedema and venous conditions.

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Why is compression beneficial?

Compression therapy is a readily available, non-invasive, extensively researched, widely used therapy in the management of lymphoedema, chronic oedema and venous conditions. 

Compression therapy can successfully help to manage lymphoedema by:

  • maintaining the swelling
  • possibly reducing the swelling even more
  • restoring the shape of the limb
  • improving skin problems (e.g. fibrosis)
  • preventing complications (e.g. cellulitis)
  • enhancing quality of life 

Compression works closely with the lymphatic and circulatory systems. It applies pressure from the outside and helps to reduce swelling by:

  • controlling the amount of fluid entering the tissues
  • increasing the flow of lymph fluid
  • moving fluid to areas of the body where it can drain away 
  • breaking down tissue that has become firmer, harder and less elastic than normal tissue (fibrosis

Compression comes in different forms and what is used for your swelling will depend on the extent, severity and complexity of your condition. Your healthcare professional will complete a thorough medical and vascular assessment before any compression therapy is introduced as for some, compression may be not be suitable and/or contraindicated.

To read more about compression therapy, click here.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

How do I know what type of lymphoedema garment is right for me?

The most effective compression garment ...

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How do I know what type of lymphoedema garment is right for me?

The best way to ensure that you have been prescribed the most effective compression garment to manage your lymphoedema, is to be assessed by a trained healthcare professional. What is also important, is being aware of the compression garment choices and playing an active role in the discussions about your care.

Following a thorough assessment, your healthcare professional will guide you as to the best type of compression required for your stage of lymphoedema. For example, sometimes compression bandaging is necessary before a garment can be successfully introduced. Bandaging helps to reduce the size of the limb and restore limb shape, making it possible to wear a compression garment. However, it is important to note that bandaging is not always necessary. The limb shape and size will determine when compression garments are recommended as the best way to manage and improve your lymphoedema on a long-term basis.

Compression garments (sometimes known as ‘stockings’ or ‘hosiery’) are available in different: 

  • Strengths – the amount of pressure applied (known as ‘compression class’ and measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’ or ‘mmHg’)
  • Knitted varieties - some have a seam (known as flat-knit garments) some are seamless (known as circular-knit garments)
  • Styles – for example a ‘below knee’, a garment that starts at the foot and stops at the knee or a ‘thigh high’, a garment that starts at the foot and stops at the thigh
  • Colours – important to consider so that it fits with your lifestyle
  • Sizes – ready-to-wear (also known as off-the-shelf), that is manufactured to pre-determined sizes or custom-made (also known as made-to-measure) that is manufactured to your individual limb measurements
  • Rigidities – the more rigid the material the more support it provides and the more it contains the swelling (known as the stiffness factor)

Most compression garments are now available on prescription. They can also be purchased directly from the suppliers, which is helpful if you need more supplies e.g. a garment in a different colour. 

It is vital that someone who has a good knowledge of compression is available to guide you – especially at the start of your lymphoedema journey, when the use of compression garments can be very daunting. It can even feel overwhelming on occasion. However, by following the trained healthcare professional’s advice and guidance, the garments selected will give you the best possible chance of managing your swelling. They will discuss the different varieties available and explain the advantages and disadvantages for your particular circumstances.

Click here to learn more about compression garments. 

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Does my risk for lymphoedema diminish over time?

Once the lymphatic system has been damaged...

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Does my risk for lymphoedema diminish over time?

Once the lymphatic system has been damaged (e.g. from surgery, radiation, infection or trauma), it cannot be repaired and as a result there will be a life-long risk of lymphoedema developing.

It is therefore important to always look after your at-risk limb/body part and adopt a daily routine to care for it. Ideally this should include:

  • keeping the at-risk limb skin intact, soft and supple
  • inspecting your skin daily – especially between the fingers and toes to ensure problems such as athletes foot (fungal infection) is treated promptly
  • being diligent and trying to avoid any unnecessary trauma or injury (e.g. cuts, scratches, bites) – if they occur, treat with an antiseptic and look out for signs of infection
  • adopting a healthy lifestyle - exercise regularly
  • keeping weight within normal limits – a healthy, well balanced diet is recommended
  • being aware of the signs and symptoms of lymphoedema and reporting them to your GP as soon as possible 

Click here to read more about reducing your risk and click here to read more about the causes of lymphoedema.

Your support - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

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