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For Women > Physiotherapy > Conditions > Lymphoedema

What is Lymphoedema?

It is a build-up of fluid in any part of the body due to the disruption of normal lymphatic drainage. There are two types of lympoedema:

Primary lymphoedema: A congenital condition caused by underdeveloped and sub-optimal functioning of the lymphatic system.

Secondary lymphoedema: Acquired lymphoedema which may be caused by the following:

  • Cancer surgery involving lymph nodes removal (e.g mastectomy with axillary clearance; hysterectomy with pelvic lymph nodes dissection)
  • Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Injury or trauma (e.g. burns)

What is the risk of developing lymphoedema after cancer surgery and treatment?

Clinical studies have reported that about 20% of women may develop lymphoedema after breast cancer treatment. The risk for women developing lymphoedema after womb cancer treatment can be as high as 33%-45%.

How will I know if I have developed lymphoedema?

While you will not be able to accurately self-diagnose lymphoedema, there are two simple self-screening tests for signs of early lymphoedema: 

Stemmer’s sign: Pinch and lift the skin on the top of your middle finger close to the knuckle. Perform this test on both hands or feet to compare. You are likely having lymphoedema if you have difficulty lifting the skin and if it appears to be solid.

Pitting test: Pitting can be evaluated by pressing your thumb with deep pressure into the area of suspected swelling. The presence of a dent (pitting) on the area where you have just applied the pressure indicates tissue fluid accumulation. 

Other signs and symptoms: 

  • Feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected area
  • Clothes or shoes may seem tighter than usual
  • Swelling in a certain part or parts of the body
  • Pain or discomfort on the affected limb
  • Restriction of limb movement
  • Thickening or hardening of the ski.

What should you do if you suspect having lymphoedema?

Please consult a doctor as soon as possible for further investigations and management. It is important to seek treatment urgently to prevent disease progression and to have better outcomes. 

How can Physiotherapy help with lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition. The aim of therapy is to keep the swelling under control, minimize infection rates, manage pain, and prevent limb weakness. A specialist physiotherapist will apply a combination of the following management methods to achieve those goals:

  • Patient education to raise your knowledge on lymphoedema control and its management. Your therapist will advise how to look out for early signs of skin infection.
  • Exercises to improve your joint flexibility and muscle strength to improve lymphatic flow.
  • Manual lymph drainage (MLD): A specialised massage technique designed to stimulate nearby lymph nodes and encourage lymphatic flow. MLD plays an integral role in pain management after surgery.
  • Multi-layer bandaging is a key component of complex decongestive therapy. The application of several layers of bandages provides considerable tension to the limb to effectively control lymphoedema.

Do not continue suffering with lymphoedema. Our Physiotherapists are here to help! Feel free to contact us at 84813151 for more information or to arrange an appointment.

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Physio & Sole Clinic

Phone: 9126 8257

Fax: 6281 1209


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