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  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    THE FOUR STAGES OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Whether primary or secondary, lymphedema is progressive and develops in stages, which can be categorised according to their severity.

    Stage 0 (latent):


    Swelling is not evident and may exist for months or years before edema becomes evident. 

    Stage 1 (mild):

    Early accumulation of fluid relatively high in protein content that subsides with limb elevation. Edema may be pitting at this stage (no fibrosis). The picture below illustrates what pitting looks like.

  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    THE FOUR STAGES OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Stage 2 (moderate):


    Limb elevation alone rarely reduces swelling and pitting may or may not occur

    Stage 3 (severe):

    Extensive edema is present. Tissue is hard (fibrotic) and pitting is absent. Skin changes, such as thickening, hyperpigmentation, increased skin folds, fat deposits and warty overgrowths develop. 

     

    Work with your physician and/or therapist to determine your stage of lymphedema. Together, you will build a plan that is right for you.

  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    MANAGEMENT OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Complete Decongestive Therapy

    When we talk about lymphedema therapy, we normally refer to two phases. The first phase is called decongestion, the second phase is called maintenance.
    A cure to lymphedema continues to elude medical professionals. However, trusted treatments and improved management tools can slow, and even prevent the progression of the disease.
    Complete Decongestive Therapy is the gold standard for treating and managing lymphedema. There are two phases to this program:

    In the decongestion phase, the goal is to reduce the edema as much as possible, bring it to a stable size and to soften the tissue. This phase consists of intensive manual lymph drainage (MLD) and compression therapy, with short-stretch bandages as the main components, completed by skin care and exercise.

    In the maintenance phase, the goal is to keep swelling at a reduced, stable level to enable your everyday living. This is achieved by using compression garments.


    The sooner you begin a suitable program of therapy, the better are the prospects of preventing disease progression and improving your condition.

  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    MANAGEMENT OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Therapy typically consists of four main activities

  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    MANAGEMENT OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Manual lymph drainage (MLD)

    MLD is performed by therapists specializing in this treatment and should not be confused with conventional massage. The purpose of MLD is to stimulate the pulsation of the lymph vessel walls, which accelerates drainage of the lymph in the lymph vessels that are still functioning. You may be surprised to find that your therapist starts the MLD much higher than where you see the swelling. This is because the visible lymphedema always has its cause somewhere else. You can compare it to a traffic jam where the actual cause such as the road being blocked by an accident, is sometimes located some distance away. The problem can be solved by clearing the accident site or creating a bypass, but not by attempting to push one's way forward from behind.

    The frequency and duration of your MLD treatment depends on your edema and situation. Patients should always work with a certified lymphedema therapist to find the most suitable therapy plan for their unique medical and lifestyle needs.

  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    MANAGEMENT OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Compression Therapy

    Unlike the blood circulation system, there is no central pump, such as the heart, to move lymph fluid around the system. Instead, the lymphatic system uses the massaging effect of surrounding muscles to move the fluid. Compression bandages and garments help to force the fluid around the body.

    Please follow your therapist‘s advice regarding the garment quality, style and compression class that are most suitable for you. As soon as you are accustomed to putting on, taking off and wearing it, you will soon come to value the relief provided by your compression garment.

    Did you know there are many product solutions for nighttime treatment? Depending on your condition, this may be a good option to consider in your therapy plan. Talk to your therapist about nightcare treatment options and whether they may work for you.

  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    MANAGEMENT OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Skin and wound care

    When you have lymphedema you need to look after your skin because any injury or infection can make the swelling worse. This is because injury or infection can further damage the lymphatic system in the affected part of your body. Any cuts in the skin can allow bacteria to enter the body and may quickly develop into an infection. Skin infections can also damage the lymphatic system and cause lymphedema to further develop. 

    Remember:

    Since lymphedema makes your skin more sensitive, it‘s good to take extra precautions to protect your skin. For example, try to avoid overexposure to the sun and try to protect yourself against insect bites.

  • Causes - Understanding the lymphatic system - Symptoms - Stages of Lymphedema

    MANAGEMENT OF LYMPHEDEMA

    Exercise

    It is important to make an exercise and movement plan to strengthen and stimulate the muscles involved in lymph drainage. Your therapist will design a program of exercises especially for you. Perform your exercises as diligently as possible and only continue as long as you feel no pain. Include the side of your body not affected by lymphedema in your training.

    Remember:

    A balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight which will reduce strain on the lymphatic system. Consult your doctor for guidance on losing weight.