What Is Lymphoedema Therapy?
Lymphoedema is caused by an overload of the lymphatic system resulting in a swelling of one or more regions of the body. It is not curable but can be managed.
There are two main categories of Lymphoedema:
- Primary Lymphoedema: caused by a malformation of lymphatic vessels and/or nodes and might not appear till later on in life.
- Secondary Lymphoedema: is caused by damage to the lymphatic system, mostly the axillary and inguinal lymph nodes.
Most frequently secondary lymphoedema occurs after surgery and radiation treatment for cancer. An oedema may develop directly after treatment or over time as a result of a chronic overload of the lymphatic system.
There can be various complications with Lymphoedema of which Cellulitis is the most common one.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (Dr Vodder)
MLD is a very gentle, non invasive, rhythmical and precise technique to move lymph from one area of the body to another.
Please refer to the following website for more info on Dr Vodder MLD. http://www.vodderschool.com/manual_lymph_drainage_overview
Why Is Early Intervention Of Lymphoedema Crucial?
A healthy Lymph system works to about 20% of its total capacity, which enables it to increase its lymph load in case of injury or infection. By the time a person notices a swelling of a limb, the total transport capacity of the lymphatic load has already reached its limit and Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT) needs to be applied.
Functions of the Lymphatic System
- Carries out immune responses
- Removes fluid leaked by capillaries into connective tissue spaces
- Removes protein and fat molecules too large to enter the blood capillaries.
- Removes organic and inorganic wastes, cells and cellular debris.
What is Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT)?
CDT has shown to be the most successful therapy for lymphoedema today. It consists of:
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
- Compression (bandage/ stocking)
- Decongestive exercises
- Skin care to prevent infection
A distinction is made between two phases of treatment:
- Decongestive phase with the goal to reduce oedema. This consists of an intensive form of therapy (MLD, compression bandaging, exercises, skin care). At the end of phase one the patient is fitted with a compression garment to maintain the obtained result.
- Maintenance phase with the goal to conserve and optimize the results achieved in phase 1. (MLD, compression stocking, exercises, skin care)
A patient may revert back to phase one if the utmost care is not taken to maintain the results. Therefore: Knowledge of the standard precautions for oedema patients, as well as postoperative patients, where lymph nodes and/or lymph vessels have been affected is absolutely crucial!!!
Based on the fact that the lymph system has an immense capacity to compensate until the 100% of its total transport capacity have been reached (which can take years) it is wise to be proactive about ones health after treatments where lymph vessels and nodes have been removed or damaged.
It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will develop Lymphoedema after breast cancer surgery and radiation treatment. (Cancer Australia).
A qualified Lymphoedema therapist can apply MLD to support the lymph system in moving lymph from a compromised area to other functioning lymph nodes and help the lymph system function better.
Pathologies which can also be treated with MLD:
- Primary/Secondary Lymphoedema
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
- Post-traumatic/post-operative edemas
- Chronic Sinusitis
- Fatigue/Stress Syndromes
- Sudeck’s disease
- Madelung’s disease