Understanding lymphoedema, its causes, and how to self-manage the condition puts you in control.

What is lymphoedema and how do I recognise it?

Lymphoedema is characterised by swelling of a limb and/or parts of the body caused when the lymphatic system does not function properly.

The swelling occurs as a result of impairment in the normal process of lymph drainage in the affected part of the body. The lymphatic system plays an important role in the body’s defence against infection by filtering and removing bacteria.

Lymphoedema can be recognised by an unexplained swelling. Over time this swelling increases and can lead to a feeling of heaviness and discomfort in the area. If left untreated, it can lead to loss of mobility and the skin becomes prone to infection.

What causes Lymphoedema?

There are two types of lymphoedema: primary and secondary lymphoedema.

Primary lymphoedema is thought to be the result of congenital abnormality of the lymphatic system.

Secondary lymphoedema can result from damage to the lymphatic vessels and/or lymph nodes. This may be from surgery, the lymph nodes being removed, and/or radiation therapy.

Other causes include trauma, infection, obesity and immobility.

Can lymphoedema be treated?

Lymphoedema is a condition that can’t be cured at this time. However, there are effective treatment programs that can reduce the swelling, risk of complications and teach you how to self-manage your lymphoedema at home.

Icon’s Lymphoedema Management Program located at our Chermside day hospital offers:

  • Prevention and early intervention
  • Intensive management
  • Self-management

For patients located outside of the Brisbane region, please talk to your Icon team about your local treatment options and how they can help.

Icon’s Lymphoedema Management Program

Our Lymphoedema Management Program was established in 1989 with the aim to educate and support our patients, teaching skills to manage and achieve independence in managing lymphoedema.

The program is delivered by a team of health professionals with specific expertise in the management of lymphoedema. This team includes medical and nursing staff, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. Referral to other relevant healthcare professionals, such as dietitians or psychologists, can be arranged as required.

Understanding lymphoedema, its causes, and how to self-manage the condition puts you in control.

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