Help for lymphedema

Treatment rooms for people living with abnormality

GETTING HELP: Lymphedema patient Lindelwa Singenu has had the condition for four years and receives treatment at the St Marks lymphedema treatment rooms Picture: SUPPLIED

PROFESSIONAL nurse and lymphedema therapist Fiona Webber wants the East London public to know that specialised help is available in the city for people who are living with lymphedema.

Lymphedema is the abnormal collection of lymph fluid just below the skin. This causes the skin to swell and brings on the condition – most commonly found in the arm and leg.

It can, also however, occur in other parts of the body including the breast, abdomen, head, trunk, neck and genitals, Webber said.

“Lymphedema occurs when the lymph vessels are damaged or when the lymph nodes are removed. This is then called secondary lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is when a person is born with abnormalities in their lymphatic system.”

When the GO! & Express visited the lymphedema treatment rooms in St Marks Road, a patient, Lindelwa Singenu, had gone in for her check- up. Singenu has had lymphedema for four years. “I am glad that my legs are healing.

“Treating lymphe- dema is not easy but you have to be very patient in your healing process,” said Webber, a professional nurse.

People can develop lymphedema after surgery or radiation therapy for various cancers. Others develop it after trauma or deep vein thrombosis or spider bites.

“People might experience a full or heavy sensation in the limb[s], tightness of the skin, decreased flexibility in the hand and wrist, difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area, or tightness of rings, bracelets and watches,” Webber said.

Though lymphedema is not life-threatening, if left untreated it results in physical and problems and frequent hospitalisation.

Treatment recommended for lymphedema is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) which is the gold standard of care of lymphedema.

The treatment components include:

  • Manuel Lymph Drainage (MLD);
  • Compression bandaging;
  • Skin care;
  • Remedial exercise; and
  • Compression garments.

“The purpose of CDT is to achieve the greatest reduction in the limb possible and to give the patient the necessary tools to maintain the reduction,” Webber said.

Treatment duration for lymphedema takes about 10 treatments for two weeks or until the plateau is reached, followed by regular check-ups. Patients are also encouraged to mobilise and stick to an exercise plan.

This treatment has huge benefits for people suffering with venous ulcers. “Every patient who has come to me with a venous and who has stuck to the treatment, has healed,” Webber said.

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