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Symptom Management >Lymphoedema

About Lymphoedema

  • This is a common cancer related problem
  • It is caused by the accumulation of excessive lymph fluid between the cells, which can cause local limb swelling. It can spread to involve other body parts in severe situations. The condition can be further divided into
    • Primary lymphoedema
    • Secondary (such as post-surgery or radiation therapy) lymphoedema
  • Symptoms
    • Swelling in the limbs and a sensation of heaviness
    • Hardened skin
    • Pain
    • Limited mobility
    • Weeping of lymph fluid

Medical Treatment

  • Healthcare professionals will provide appropriate treatment based on the causes of the condition. Doctor may prescribe medications if applicable
  • Hotness, redness and pain in the swollen parts may be signs of infection in the affected areas. Please notify the healthcare professionals immediately in case you have any of these symptoms

Non-medical Treatment

Lymphoedema can be prevented and relieved with appropriate treatment such as

  • Exercise therapy
  • Limbs positioning
  • Massage
  • Pressure Therapy: Pressure Garment, bandaging, etc.
  • Use of various medical equipment (such as oedema pressure therapy device)

Healthcare professionals will provide appropriate treatment based on the causes of the symptom. Treatment effectiveness is subject to active participation of patients.

The importance of exercise

Practice various exercises according to the instructions of the therapist. Rhythmic exercise can effectively help the lymph flow, reduce oedema and prevent joint stiffness. Be cautious:

  • Appropriate type(s) and amount of exercise is of paramount importance as excessive exercise may intensify the swelling
  • You can wear compression stockings or bandages during exercise to help reduce swelling

Limbs positioning

Proper positioning of limbs can help reduce oedema caused by sagging placement or lack of activity.

  • Positioning of upper limbs: rest the affected limbs flat on a pillow or on table-top
  • Positioning of lower limbs: Rest them flat on a chair

Tips for everyday life

  • Skin care: Keep your skin clean and moisturized. For example, apply body lotion to moisturize your skin
  • Keep your fingers especially the clefts dry and clean
  • Wear gloves when working to avoid skin damage
  • Even minor wounds (such as scratches and mosquito bites) should be carefully cleaned and disinfected
  • Use appropriate tools to trim your nails and use an electric razor to avoid cutting your skin with the blade
  • Avoid excessive exposure to the sun
  • Avoid injection, drawing blood or measuring blood pressure in the swollen areas
  • Avoid standing for a long time or sitting with crossed legs
  • Use warm water for cleaning or showering
  • Do not wear tight accessories or clothing on the affected areas

Consult your healthcare professionals in case of any questions.

About pressure garments

If necessary, healthcare professionals would recommend the use of pressure garments to reduce lymphoedema or prevent it from worsening as appropriate.

Occupational therapists will design and fabricate suitable pressure garments for patients according to the related body parts and extent of swelling. Pressure padding would be prescribed according to level of swelling and for scar management as indicated.

Wearing regime: Round the clock (except during shower) or following the instructions of the therapist.

How to take care of pressure garments:

  • Change it every day
  • Handwash with gentle detergent/washing powder in cold water and rinse properly; do not rub forcefully or wring them
  • Refrain from using hot water or bleach; do not expose them to prolonged sunlight or iron dry
  • Do not adjust the pressure garments on your own

Compression gloves and socks

*If you feel uncomfortable after wearing the pressure garment, such as itchiness or numbness, stop using it and notify your therapist for follow up as soon as possible.

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