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Lymphoedema & Lipoedema

(Dr. Vodder Method)

Lymphoedema is a swelling that can develop when the lymphatic system has become damaged or is not working properly. It can affect any part of the body, but is mainly seen in arms or legs. If the lymph system is under-developed or is damaged or becomes blocked, there is a build up of fluid in the surrounding area. The arm or leg will become swollen, will feel heavy and can often be painful. The skin will become dry, sometimes thickened and can also discolour. If not treated the swelling becomes very difficult to control and there is an increased risk of infection (cellulitis). Some of the signs and symptoms include the feeling of stiffness, the sensation of tightness, fullness or heaviness in the  affected area as well as a certain degree of discomfort or pain.

Lymphoedema can be either Primary or Secondary

Primary Lymphoedema is from birth and can start at any time as the result of an abnormally developed lymphatic system.

Secondary Lymphoedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system and can develop as a result of:

* Surgery (particularly where lymph nodes have to be removed)
* Radiation during cancer treatment
* Injury or accident where lymph nodes are damaged
* Immobility which impairs the lymph vessels and nodes
* Infection can cause damage to the nodes in the infected area
* A venous problem (where the veins in the legs no longer work properly)

Lipoedema is an abnormal distribution of fat cells. It is characterised by symmetrical enlargement of both legs from below the waist to the ankles, while the upper body remains unaffected. Occasionally it also affects the arms. The skin is sensitive to pressure and tends to bruise easily. Pain ranges from very little to disabling. This condition is extremely distressing and people with lipoedema may develop lymphoedema as well (lipo-lymphoedema).

Although the damage to the lymphatic system cannot be reversed, the swelling can be controlled with treatment. Treatments aim to restore the balance between the rate at which lymph is produced and the rate at which it drains away.

There are four aspects to Lymphoedema treatment, called Combined Decongestive Therapy:

1. Manual Lymph Drainage
2. Compression garments
3. Exercise
4. Skin care

An initial assessment is essential to check suitability for the treatment. Measurements of the affected area(s) may be taken and you will be given a medical consent form which must be completed by your GP or Oncologist before your first treatment.

As Lymphoedema cannot be cured, regular on-going treatments are necessary to monitor and properly manage this condition.

MLD/CDT is a relatively new form of treatment, so your Oncologist, GP or Support Centre may not be aware of its existence and availability in your area. In this case, please contact me and I  will forward the necessary information to them.

Finding a Therapist

MLD is a specialised medical treatment, so it is important that a properly trained therapist is used. To find an accredited MLD practitioner near you, visit the MLD Ireland website at www.mldireland.com. MLD Ireland members are qualified, insured, and up-to-date in their education and practice. This will ensure that you will be treated in a way that will not aggravate an already compromised lymphatic system.


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