Lymphcare UK aims to inform people of lymphoedema and its treatment options.
Every March, caregivers, patients and supporters from around the world come together and promote public understanding of lymphoedema.
This year, it’s no exception, with British Lymphology Society (BLS) Awareness week beginning from March 6, 2016.
Lymphcare UK, a social enterprise specialising in healthcare, runs a campaign called ‘spread the word’, which aims to inform as many people as possible of lymphoedema and various treatment options available.
What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a debilitating long term condition, that causes swelling of any part of the body as result of lymph fluid accumulating in the tissues.
Although it affects the lives of over 200,000 people in the UK, not many are aware of the chronic condition or its health impact.
There are two different types of lymphoedema. Primary lymphoedema occurs when a problem with the lymphatic system is present from birth. In most cases, it runs in the family genes.
It can affect one of both legs, and sometimes the arms too. The symptoms do not always show immediately and could surface later in life.
The other type is secondary, which means the person has a normal lymphatic system but has been affected by other condition or illness.
Any damage to the lymphatics triggered by a range of circumstances, such as cancer, cancer treatments, surgery, trauma or infection, could cause this type of lymphoedema.
Most global cases of secondary lymphoedema are caused by filariasis, where a parasite enters and blocks the lymphatic system. These parasites do not live in the UK.
What are the signs and symptoms of lymphoedema?
- Swelling of any area of the body
- Heaviness and aching
- Dry skin and other skin changes
- Folds developing in the skin
- Leakage of fluid from skin
- Repeated skin infections
- Skin becoming firm and tight
- Limited range of movement
- Difficulty with movement
- Physical and emotional issues
- Difficulty with fitting footwear or clothing due to swelling
Other causes of swelling include chronic oedema and dependent oedema. While the former presents swelling for over three months and result from venous disease or orthopaedic surgery, the latter occurs from immobility.
Lymphoedema is sometimes confused with lipoedema, which describes a condition that makes the person accumulate a specific type of fat, often below the waist making the legs and buttocks out of proportion with the upper body.
Although 11 per cent of women in the UK suffer from it, the cause remains unknown.
To prevent lymphoedema from developing, there are many simple routines that we can adopt.
Take good care of your skin and apply moisturiser every day hydrate and healthy, thus lowering the risk of developing cellulitis, an infection of the tissues.
Some example of treatment options include wearing compression garments, getting medical lymphatic drainage massage and using the method of kinesio taping.
More complex treatment options would involve bandaging or pump therapy. This should improve shape and reduce volume of the affected area, ensuring the effectiveness of compression garments.
LymphCare UK has been running therapeutic Yoga courses in conjunction with qualified yoga trainer Kay Hickman, and has received overwhelming support from the class.
This new fitness and treatment regime called Lymph Yoga is believed to help with limb volume reduction, range of movement and quality of life.
In addition, Lymphcare UK have successfully developed a Yoga Training Course for Healthcare Professionals and Therapists – all of this was inspired by a lecture on treating lymphoedema in Indian villages.
For more information of British Lymphology Society Awareness week or details on lymphoedema in general, please visit the BLS website.
Lymphoedema Awareness Week will run from March 6 to 11, 2016. Visit Lymphcare UK to find out more.