Working with Patients to Support the Self-Management of Lymphoedema

Posted by Matt Carter, on March 2 2018 in: News

Lymphoedema is a chronic long term condition, the result of a lymphatic system failure. It can be classified as either primary (due to an abnormality within the lymphatic system) or secondary (damage to the lymphatic system by external factors e.g. cancer related treatments) and can cause swelling of one or more limbs, or other areas of the body e.g. legs, arms, face, breast.

The Lymphoedema Team at Dorothy House strive to support patients and their carers who may feel overwhelmed by their lymphoedema diagnosis and other conditions. Lymphoedema can have a significant impact on someone’s body image, personal relationships and overall wellbeing. By creating a positive and empathetic environment, we care for our patients and provide education into self-management.

The management options for lymphoedema can include compression garments to support and reduce swelling. This may involve an intensive courses of bandaging, involving multiple clinic appointments. However, new innovations in lymphoedema management have seen the introduction of compression wrap systems. Working in partnership with the patient, these systems can be tailor made and allow patients to be empowered and control their condition. Feedback from Dorothy House Hospice Care patients has been incredibly positive. Patients report wraps give them more freedom; allowing self-adjustment and less time visiting the clinic. Patients also feel well supported by Lymphoedema Team as they can contact us for ongoing advice and support about their wraps.

The Lymphoedema Team work in partnership with District Nursing Teams and Nursing Homes to promote and support the use of wraps systems. This facilitates excellent joint working with our partner agencies. Ultimately enabling a high standard of patient centred care.

The Lymphoedema Team are continually working hard to implement evidence based solutions, utilising other specialist services to inform and guide practice. Our Lymphoedema Practitioners attend a specialist course at the Royal Marsden Hospital. This gives an invaluable experience and networking opportunities with other professionals working in the field of lymphoedema.

Top tips for lymphoedema self-management (for those with, or, at risk of lymphoedema).

  • Skin care is key. Regular moisturising of the skin will keep it supple. This will also reduce your risk of infection.
  • The lymphatic system does not have its own pump to move lymphatic fluid. exercise will help lymphatic fluid movement.
  • Healthy weight. Keeping to a healthy weight will reduce the pressure on the lymphatic system. Also contributing to your overall health and wellbeing.
  • Be infection aware! If you notice any signs of skin infection, see your GP straight away. Skin may become warm, pink/red in colour, painful to touch, and, you may also have flu like symptoms.

Further information on lymphoedema is available from The Lymphoedema Support Network: http://www.lymphoedema.org/

If you have any concerns about your skin, risk of lymphoedema, or current lymphoedema symptoms, please contact your GP for advice and support.