Go back

Answers for: Are there any contraindications for having MLD?

What can I expect when I get my first garment?

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

X

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! 

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

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

Managing a swelling if you...

X

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...

X

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.

X

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.

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


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’.

X

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.

X

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.

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What is lymphoedema?

A condition impacting millions, known by few.

X

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.

X

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?

Will a night-time garment help me manage my lymphoedema?

Learn about night-time compression...

X

Will a night-time garment help me manage my lymphoedema?

Many patients experience night-time discomfort from swelling described as feelings of aching, pain, tightness, and heaviness.

Traditionally, bandages have been used for night-time compression, but many patients struggle with their application, often wrapping them too tight, which can cause more harm than good. That's why night garments are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to bandaging and patients are quickly seeing the great results that around-the-clock oedema management can bring.

Wearing a night-time compression garment may help maintain your oedema and complement your daytime treatment. Benefits may include maintenance of daytime gains and improved sleeping comfort. 

Wearing a night-time garment helps manage the oedema by:

  • Increasing the lymph reabsorption
  • Simulates lymphatic capillaries 
  • Softens tissue fibrosis

If you think that night-time compression may benefit you, speak with your healthcare professional and obtain their advice and guidance. These types of garments may offer you the best possible chance of managing your swelling during the night. 

Click here to learn more about night-time compression garments. 

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

What does treatment look like for lymphoedema?

There are many reasons why lymphoedema may develop.

X

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.

X

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...

X

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 ...

X

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?

Will my arm/leg swell when I remove my lymphoedema compression garment?

Compression in the form of a...

X

Will my arm/leg swell when I remove my lymphoedema compression garment?

Compression in the form of a sleeve for an arm and a stocking for a leg is a common part of the treatment regime for patients with lymphoedema. These garments apply graduated pressure to the limb and when the muscles contract, the counter pressure of the garment increases the pressure within the tissues, enhancing lymph drainage, helping the fluid to move more effectively and in the right direction. Garments are used to control the oedema and limb size should not increase whilst wearing a compression garment in fact, on occasions, it may be reduced.

For the garment to have the desired effect, it should not be too loose nor too tight. Your compression garment should be measured for you and fitted by a specialist to make sure it fits correctly. They will select the type of garment and the amount of pressure that is suitable for your condition and your lifestyle. You will be shown how to put your garment on and take it off correctly to ensure that you do not damage your limb or the garment. Once your hosiery is on it should feel firm but not tight. It may feel snug but supportive and comfortable. 

You should wear your compression garment as instructed by your lymphoedema specialist. Regular, daily use of the compression garment is typical, and garments are usually applied in the morning, worn during the day and taken off at night. In certain cases, night-time compression may be prescribed and uses alternative methods of compression. If garments are used as instructed, and not left off for long periods of time, your limb should not swell. However, if compression is not applied regularly to the tissues, your limb size and shape may begin to deteriorate, and your current garment may no longer fit and will not be as effective as it should be.  

 If  your limb becomes unusually swollen or an irregular shape you may need to stop wearing you garment and contact your healthcare professional, as Ill-fitting garments, such as wearing one that is too small, can be restrictive and cause complications. Similarly, if you notice a change in the colour or temperature in your fingers or toes or any new symptoms such as tingling, numbness or pain in your limb, remove your garment immediately and contact your lymphoedema therapist for advice.

If you are not able to wear a compression garment your lymphoedema specialist may suggest other types of treatments to reduce the size of your limb. Once the swelling has reduced you should be able to go back to using a compression garment. 

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

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Is there a cure for lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema has no known cure.

X

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.

X

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?

My GP has told me to lose weight. Will this help my lymphoedema?

Being overweight may affect your treatment...

X

My GP has told me to lose weight. Will this help my lymphoedema?

Being overweight may affect your treatment for lymphoedema and your general health. Obesity and lymphoedema are very much interlinked. If you are overweight, losing some weight will be beneficial for preventing and reducing all forms of lymphoedema. A significant gain in weight will make existing lymphoedema worse and any care more difficult. The reasons for this are as follows: 

  • People who are obese or who are carrying excess weight, tend to be less active and as they find movement increasingly difficult, they burn less calories and subsequently gain more weight – a vicious circle ensues
  • Fat has very few lymph vessels within it and so it is very poor at moving lymphatic fluid. During activity and exercise the surrounding muscles attempt to put pressure on the lymphatic vessels but moving fluid within fat has been described as ‘trying to squeeze a tube of toothpaste when wearing oven gloves’. So, if there is less fat surrounding the muscles and lymph vessels, the movement of the lymph fluid is more efficient
  • Excess weight, especially around the tummy region, can obstruct the flow of blood in the veins and lymph flow to the lymph glands in and around the groin area. If an excessive amount of time is spent sitting down, the situation is exacerbated and as a result, pressure builds in the veins and lymph vessels, causing the legs to swell, contributing to the lymphoedema
  • Swelling is harder to treat in obese patients as the exercise component of treatment is more challenging and compression garments are more difficult to fit on larger, misshapen limbs. Therefore, weight loss not only has a benefit for the patient, but it makes treating the condition easier for their therapist too 

Nutrition is important too. There are ongoing studies into possible links between lymphoedema and diet but at present, there is no clear evidence that lymphoedema patients require a specific kind of diet unless there are any other medical conditions that warrant special dietary advice. It is more important to adopt a healthy approach.

The NHS promotes the Eatwell Guide which is a dietary tool designed to achieve a well-balanced diet. It depicts a plate of food and describes the quantities of each food group required to eat healthily and their benefits. It recommends a balance between protein, carbohydrates and fat, and encourages the well documented 5 a day portions of fruit and vegetables combined with nuts, seeds and beans. It promotes eating low fat, low sugar options and recommends eating a wide range of foods, limiting processed items such as sausages and bacon. 

Dietary advice is vast and varied but remember what works for one person, may not work for another. The important thing is to combine a nutritious diet with exercise and listen to the advice of your lymphoedema specialist. 

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

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 ...

X

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...

X

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?

How can I keep cool when wearing compression during the summer?

Hot weather can be bothersome for many...

X

How can I keep cool when wearing compression during the summer?

Hot weather can be bothersome for many managing their lymphoedema. In fact, many dread those hot summer days and finding ways to cope with the heat when wearing compression is essential. Summer temperatures have the potential to make a swelling worse. This is because heat increases blood flow which in turn increases the amount of tissue fluid produced and consequently the lymphatic system must work even harder to clear it away. So, as tempting as it may be to remove your compression garment, try not to as your swelling may get worse.

Why not consider some of the following ideas to try and help you manage your lymphoedema during the summer heat?

  • Discuss the type of compression garment you are wearing with your healthcare professional to see if there is an alternative that may help you cope better in the heat. Although a flat-knit compression garment appears to be heavier and more bulky than a circular-knit compression garment, the weave is much more open (mesh-like) and therefore may make a flat-knit garment cooler and more comfortable to wear. The mesh-knit allows more air flow so the skin can breathe a little easier and, in general, the material allows moisture (perspiration) to be more easily absorbed. There are many different types of compression garments and materials available now so ask your healthcare professional what is most suitable for your individual requirements
  • Ensure your compression garment is at an optimal strength. It will then provide adequate pressure and work better for you when the temperatures warm-up increasing the amount of fluid in the tissues
  • Ensure your compression garment has been replaced, as recommended by the manufacturer. The material loosens following a period of wear, and your compression garment may no longer provide the compression, fit or support needed to manage your swelling. Therefore, replacing your garment as recommended (obtaining a repeat prescription if needed) is important
  • Wearing compression during the day is considered to be the mainstay of treatment (being active and moving ensures the compression garment is working at its best) however, on particularly hot days if you really find it intolerable, you could maybe try wearing it at night instead. However, please speak to your healthcare professional first before changing any aspect of your lymphoedema treatment. Ensure the compression garment fits well and check that there are no creases or folds in the garments before you go to sleep, and NEVER fold over the top of the garment. Some compression garments are designed to be worn at night and during periods of relaxation. Click here to listen to Kelly’s experience wearing night-time compression 
  • During the summer months, try putting your spare garment in a plastic bag in the fridge (or for a short period in the freezer) prior to application, as this may assist in keeping your limb cooler for longer
  • You may find it cooling to spray cold water onto the compression garment periodically throughout the day (fill a small spray bottle with mineral water) or alternatively, remove your garment and put your limb under a cool tap or shower
  • Think about what clothing you wear over the top of your compression garment too. Clothing should be light, loose and non-constricting, especially around the waist, under the breasts, and at the wrists/armpit/ankles. Loose cotton material is likely to be more comfortable as this allows movement of air between the garment and the clothes, and the cotton of course absorbs any sweat that may pass through. White or light-coloured clothing is also recommended as this reflects the sun’s rays and keeps you cooler; black or dark coloured clothing retains the heat and makes you feel even hotter
  • Look after your skin as fungal infections between the toes are more common in the hot weather too. Toes maybe more swollen than usual and become hot and sweaty making it a lovely environment for such infections. Observe the skin closely and use anti-fungal powder if you develop Athlete’s foot for example. Alternatively, tea tree oil is sometimes recommended as a precaution

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What is lymphofluoroscopy mapping?

Lymphofluoroscopy mapping and screening is a simple procedure to help view...

X

What is lymphofluoroscopy mapping?

Lymphofluoroscopy mapping and screening is a simple procedure to help view the superficial lymphatic drainage pathways in the body. This technique has been used in other medical assessments such as eye and heart conditions for many years.  

The procedure involves injecting a small amount of ‘tracer’ (or dye) just under the skin, usually in the hand or foot. Once the dye has had time to travel through the lymphatic system, a camera shines through the skin, allowing the dye travelling through the lymphatic vessels to be seen. The healthcare professional will start to ‘map’ the vessels on the skin using a skin marker. This procedure allows fluid moving around the lymphatics to be seen, marked on the skin, or can identify where the fluid is being blocked from flowing through the lymphatic system properly. This procedure gives the healthcare professional an opportunity to see how the lymphatic fluid moves in ‘real time’.  

It takes a few hours for the dye to travel further around the lymphatics and complete the drainage patterns picture. This picture identifies where the lymphatic fluid needs to be moved to, therefore enhancing patients treatment plans and may also help support a diagnosis of lymphoedema. 

Lymphofluoroscopy mapping is currently only available in UK private clinics. If appropriate referral can be made by a healthcare professional, or enquiries can be made directly to the clinic. 

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

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

My legs are so big. Is this normal for lymphoedema?

The most common symptom of lower limb lymphoedema is swelling...

X

My legs are so big. Is this normal for lymphoedema?

The most common symptom of lower limb lymphoedema is swelling. This can be to varying degrees and can involve the thigh and/or calf and can extend into the toes. The swelling usually develops over time and if left untreated it is likely to get worse. The best way to reduce and control your swelling is to follow the advice of your healthcare professional/Lymphoedema Specialist and undertake all the treatment methods and regimes that have been given to you. 

If you have a very sudden onset of swelling in your limb associated with/without pain, please consult your GP or your local Accident & Emergency department as this may indicate complications such as a blood clot (Deep Vein Thrombosis DVT) which requires immediate treatment. 

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

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

Will elevating my legs help my lymphoedema?

Elevation may be effective for some types of swelling...

X

Will elevating my legs help my lymphoedema?

Elevation may be effective for some types of swelling, but if you have lymphoedema careful positioning of your swollen leg/legs whilst resting may slightly reduce your swelling, but it will not reduce it completely. 

Some ways to elevate your legs when resting:

  • With your feet on a stool, make sure that you support the whole length of your leg, especially your knees using a pillow or a cushion
  • Alternatively, lie with your legs outstretched on a sofa

Avoid sitting for long periods of time especially with your legs hanging down, as this causes fluid to drain into your lower legs and feet. Sitting with your legs or ankles crossed may impact the lymphatics and should be avoided. It is advisable to move around at least once an hour or at the very least do some rotational and paddling movements with your feet and ankles in order to stimulate your circulation and lymphatic drainage.

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

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

How do I get new lymphoedema compression garments on prescription?

It is important that your compression garment...

X

How do I get new lymphoedema compression garments on prescription?

It is important that your compression garment is measured for and fitted by a lymphoedema specialist or trained practitioner to make sure it fits correctly and is suitable for the type of swelling that you have. Each patient is assessed individually, and the correct style of garment is selected once your specific limb measurements have been taken. Most clinics will then organise a prescription for the appropriate garment. In some instances, you will be given one garment, stocking or pair of tights and then another will be requested from your General Practitioner (GP). This ensures that you have one garment to wear and one to wash. Some clinics however have ready-to-wear garments in stock and will provide during your clinic appointment.

If your lymphoedema is a result of cancer or it’s treatments, you will be exempt from prescription charges. An exemption form is available through your GP or pharmacy. 

If you normally pay for your prescriptions, you will incur prescription charges per item for your garments.

Ongoing provision of your compression garment will be arranged by your lymphoedema specialist or practitioner. Over time garments become less effective due to regular washing and wearing and usually require replacement every six months.  

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

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

How do I look after my skin each day?

Looking after your skin every day will help...

X

How do I look after my skin each day?

Looking after your skin every day will help to keep your skin in good condition and reduce the chance of infection. 

You can take care of your skin by thinking about these three key areas:

1. Washing

Regularly wash your affected limb. Normal soap can dry your skin out so we would suggest using either a pH-neutral cleanser or an emollient instead of soap. Your healthcare professional will be able to provide advice if you need it on appropriate cleansers to replace soap.

2. Drying

Be careful when drying your skin – do not rub it or apply any unnecessary force, especially if the skin is fragile. Instead, pat your skin dry with a soft towel. Pay particular attention to the area between your toes and to any folds in your skin as these areas can be overlooked and become damp, leading to skin damage.

3. Moisturising

It is very important to keep your skin soft, supple and well hydrated, as this can help to prevent it from drying out and cracking, and therefore help to reduce the risk of infections such as cellulitis. You can use body lotions or creams with a high moisture content for this, and your healthcare professional will be able to help you to choose the best product for you. Ideally, apply your chosen moisturiser twice daily. If you cannot do this then moisturise once a day after washing your skin, ideally in the evening to allow the moisture to be absorbed overnight. 

While thinking about skin care, you should also pay attention to nail care. It is important to prevent in-grown nails or dry skin around the nail bed which might scrape or cut your skin. If you have a manicure or pedicure, always make sure that clean instruments are used and try to avoid any unnecessary nicks or cutting of your cuticles. 

As part of your daily life, try to avoid injuries to your skin which might lead to infection, such as scratches and bites from pets, insect bites, or any other cuts such as from razors or minor injuries. You should also avoid unnecessary skin punctures such as injections, blood samples, blood pressure readings, acupuncture, tattoos or piercings. 

Your daily skin routine is a great opportunity to check your skin for any problems. Look out for marks, redness, or any sign of damage which might need attention before it develops into a more serious problem. Taking care of your skin should become part of your everyday life, helping to protect yourself from infection and keep your skin healthy. 

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

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


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

How can I effectively exercise at home?

Read about exercising at home...

X

How can I effectively exercise at home?

Exercise and movement are both very important for people with lymphoedema. The good news is that there are plenty of ways which you can safely stay active while at home.

1. Gentle daily activity

Making movement a part of your daily routine is a good place to start. There are lots of ways to incorporate activity into your day-to-day life at home. These might include household chores, walking in your garden and gentle foot exercises which you can carry out while waiting for a kettle to boil. For some examples, watch this video: here

2. Aerobic exercise

Even if you can’t leave the house, it is still possible to build aerobic exercise into your daily life. If you have the space, exercise equipment such as static bikes or cross trainers are a good substitute for outdoor cycling and jogging. There are now also many free exercise classes available online covering a wide range of genres, from dancing to general keep fit classes. As with any other form of exercise, always make sure you are starting gently and that you have checked with your healthcare professional before starting anything new.

3. Strength and flexibility exercises

Again, you will find many examples of free classes and guided workouts online. These include yoga, Pilates and strength work. Many of them require no specific equipment or are designed to use items you may readily have available at home, such as water bottles instead of weights. Look for classes which use body weight resistance rather than weights or equipment – but again, be certain to check with your healthcare professional, particularly for resistance exercises.

With a little ingenuity you can soon build a fun and varied programme of exercise and movement into your day-to-day life at home. Wherever you can, build in plenty of variety to help keep yourself interested and motivated, and incorporate fresh air if you have outdoor space available to use. 

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

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

Author: The LymphConnect team

Date published: 17th April 2020

References available upon request


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

I’ve been told to start getting more active. Where do I begin?

Read about where to start getting more active...

X

I’ve been told to start getting more active. Where do I begin?

Exercise is important for everyone, whether they have lymphoedema or not. If you have lymphoedema, however, exercise brings even more benefits. Exercising can help to improve your lymphatic flow, which can help to reduce swelling. Exercise is of course also a good way to help to maintain a healthy weight. This is important as being overweight makes it more difficult to treat your lymphoedema.

If you are getting started exercising with lymphoedema, it is important to take a progressive approach. This means that you start with gentle exercise and gradually increase the intensity over time. This may hopefully help to avoid the risk of sudden, increased swelling and strains and /or injury to your muscles. It also allows you to see how your affected areas respond to your new exercise programme. 

When you look at an exercise programme, you should be looking to include a combination of the following:

1. Aerobic exercise

This is exercise which increases your heart and breathing rate. Examples include walking, jogging, dancing and exercising in water. 

2. Strength exercises

These are exercises which work on your major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). This might include push ups, lifting weights, or exercise forms such as Pilates. 

3. Flexibility exercises

These are exercises which involve gentle stretching of muscles, skin and other tissues to try to increase your range of movement. Yoga is a good example of stretching

Alongside all of these forms of exercise, remember to continue any specific lymphoedema exercises you have been given. You should also wear your compression garment while exercising.

Remember: it is important to begin gently and progress gradually to avoid adding any further stress to your lymphatic system You should also speak to your healthcare professional about your exercise programme before you start it to make sure that it is suitable – particularly for resistance exercises. Good luck!

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

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

Author: The LymphConnect team

Date published: 17th April 2020

References available upon request


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

I just got diagnosed with lymphoedema, where can I get advice and support?

The diagnosis of lymphoedema can be challenging...

X

I just got diagnosed with lymphoedema, where can I get advice and support?

The diagnosis of lymphoedema can be challenging. It can be frustrating to know that there is no cure, however, you can manage your condition and control some aspect of lymphoedema. Try the following to help you cope:

Knowledge

Understanding what lymphoedema is, the causes and how it affects your body will help you adjust and communicate with your doctor.

Skin care

Take care of your affected limb as this may prevent complications. Check your skin daily. Ensure it stays clean, look closely for signs of damage, such as cracks and cuts. Apply lotion to prevent dry skin. 

Take care of yourself

Taking control of your diet and exercising regularly can help reduce lymphoedema and stress. Get enough sleep which will encourage healing and give you more energy.

Others who can relate

You can get support from a range of resources. You might want to try and attend a support group in your area or join an online community. It may help to talk to people who understand what you're going through. Find strength, encouragement and support right here - Join the LymphConnect community - register here to share your lymphoedema experiences, stories and top tips.

ASK ELVY - In this section, Elvy answers some of your frequently asked questions about lymphoedema. 

You may find the links useful on the LymphConnect resources page

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

Author: The LymphConnect team

Date published: 26th May 2020

References available upon request


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What do I need to avoid if I have Lymphoedema?

Being diagnosed with lymphoedema may feel...

X

What do I need to avoid if I have Lymphoedema?

Being diagnosed with lymphoedema may feel like you have to stop the things you enjoy but this is not the case. However, you do need to be more mindful of surroundings and adapt a self-care routine to ensure you stay healthy and safe.  

Try to avoid the following:

Excessive exercise/physical overexertion

You may need to adjust your exercise and movement programme - ensure you do some breathing exercises and remember to warm-up. Check that you are in a hazard-free environment and don't over push yourself when you exercise and always cool down. Also, avoid heavy lifting and joint over-rotation. 

Ill-fitting or too tight garments

Garments or bandages, tight bra straps, and jewellery that are too tight can restrict blood and lymph circulation. Compression sleeves or stockings for lymphedema need to fit correctly.

Extreme heat and cold conditions

Avoid extreme temperatures that can cause stress on the lymphatic system, such as saunas, hot weather, heat treatments/hot packs. Any extreme cold - cold weather, ice packs etc. 

Injuries to the skin 

Try to avoid scratching your skin or nail-biting as these may lead to infection. When outside and around animals try to be careful not to get scratches or bites. Use an insect repellent to help protect you from bites and stings. Avoid physical injuries that can bruise or damage your skin. Immediately seek medical advice if you think you may be developing a skin infection. 

Good practice

Skin care - Wash skin carefully and thoroughly, and ensure you dry all areas fully. Apply creams to keep your skin soft and supple to avoid drying and cracking. This helps to reduce the risk of infection. Use SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to avoid sunburns.

Keep healthy - Keep your body weight at an optimal level, follow a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. Ask your doctor/nurse which exercises are right for you. Some exercises may make your lymphedema worse.

Treatment - Continue to seek appropriate treatment for your lymphoedema. 

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

Author: The LymphConnect team

Date published: 26th May 2020

References available upon request


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a skin infection...

X

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a skin infection that is treated with antibiotics. It is the most common infection with people with lymphoedema because the lymphatic system is impaired or overloaded and does not function sufficiently to fight infection. 

Causes of cellulitis

Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Damage to the skin, for example, because of an insect bite, cut or dry and cracked skin can infect the deeper layers of the skin. Cellulitis is a non-contagious skin infection.

Recognising signs of infection

If you experience any of the following symptoms contact your doctor immediately. 

  • redness, swelling and heat accompanied by pain and tenderness 

Cellulitis complications 

It is important to get treatment quickly as the infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the blood, muscles and bones. 

Treatment 

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotic tablets for mild cellulitis affecting a small area of skin. It is normal in the first 48 hours of treatment for symptoms to get worse but they should start to improve. Even if you feel better, finish the whole course of antibiotics. 

Severe cases of cellulitis will be referred to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics treatment by the doctor. 

If you are prone to having recurring cellulitis the doctor might prescribe you a low-dose, long-term antibiotic to stop infections developing again. 

Prevention 

Looking after your skin every day will help to keep your skin in good condition and reduce the chance of infection. 

Washing

Regularly wash your affected limb. Your healthcare professional will be able to provide advice if you need it on appropriate cleansers to replace soap.

Drying

Be careful when drying your skin – pat your skin dry with a soft towel.

Moisturising

It is very important to keep your skin soft, supple and well-hydrated, as this can help to prevent it from drying out and cracking, and therefore help to reduce the risk of infections such as cellulitis.

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

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

Author: The LymphConnect team

Date published: 22nd May 2020

References available upon request


RELEVANT QUESTIONS?

DB:pages::keywords