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Lymphoedema specialist practice

Treatment programme for thick and painful limbs with lymphoedema

What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is a disease of the lymphatic system. It is not rare; 0.5 to 1.5 percent of the population is affected. Lymphoedema develops if the lymphatic system (the entire network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes) becomes unable to sufficiently transfer lymph from the tissues to the heart. As a result, lymph accumulates in the tissues leading to what is called oedema. Lymphoedema can be primary or secondary. Primary lymphoedema is caused by the congenitally insufficient function of the lymphatic system. Secondary lymphoedema develops when the lymphatic system is damaged and is no longer able to carry out its task. The lymphatic system is most commonly damaged during surgery, for example varicose vein surgery, surgery due to an accident, knee surgery, etc. Varicose vein diseases, i.e insufficient venous blood circulation may also cause lymphoedema. It is also common after removal or irradiation of cancer. Lymphoedema may occur in the arm after breast surgery, and in the lower limbs and the genital area after abdominal surgery. Oedema may occur not only on the limbs, but in any location of the body (e.g. face, chest, genital area as well).

What are the symptoms of lymphoedema?

Typical symptoms of lymphoedema include:

  • thickening of the affected limb;
  • thickening of the fingers on the affected limb;
  • development of so-called baby wrinkles at the base of the fingers, the wrists and the ankles;
  • loaf-like swelling of the hands, ankles and feet;
  • nails bent in a shell shape;
  • warty, rough skin;
  • painful skin tightness;
  • pitting oedema;
  • bending, moving the limbs becomes difficult;
  • recurrent erysipelas;
  • lymphatic leakage, wound formation.
Whom is treatment recommended for?

For all patients who experience the symptoms listed above. It is also recommended for those who permanently suffer from heavy legs syndrome, and in cases where improvement of lymph circulation and venous blood circulation is justified. The treatment is also used to prevent the development of varicose veins or spider veins.

What is the aim of this specialist practice?

The aim of our specialist practice is to perform a professional oedema treatment for patients with lymphoedema (lower limb, upper limb, or oedema anywhere in the body), and then to eliminate pathological symptoms, which interfere with the normal way of life and working capacity. Lymphoedema worsens without treatment, leading to impaired mobility, lymphatic leakage, and wounds. If required, the patient is regularly treated, and through consultation, we help maintain an oedema-free state. The course of the treatment: the aim of the complex oedema treatment is to drain lymph stuck in the tissues, then return it to the circulation. This is carried out by a qualified lymph therapist following the recommendation of a specialist experienced in the treatment of lymphoedema, and following internationally accepted guidelines.

The treatment consists of two phases

Phase 1, intensive treatment:
  • manual lymph drainage: returns congested lymph accumulated in the tissues to the central lymphatic system using a special massage technique;
  • providing education on the accurate use of compression bandages;
  • skin care: restores the protective function of the skin;
  • physical exercise: activation of the muscle pump enhances blood and lymph circulation.
Phase 2, maintenance treatment:
  • the patient or his/her relative is educated on the accurate usage of compression bandages (strips), which they are to use at home to maintain continuous lymphatic circulation;
  • physical exercise and movement improve lymphatic circulation by activating the muscle pump;
  • skin care, which is important for the epithelium to maintain its normal function;
  • the use of medical compression stockings, which maintain and support lymphatic circulation in the oedema-free limb.

Control check-ups and consultation are also necessary. Prescription of a new set of compression bandages and medical compression stockings is recommended every 6 months.

This treatment programme comprises 3 to 5 occasions on average. It must/may be repeated several times depending on the patient’s the condition.

When is lymphoedema treatment not recommended?
  • In cases of untreated high blood pressure
  • In cases of infectious skin diseases
  • In near-term pregnancy
  • In cases of acute inflammatory processes
  • In cases of respiratory failure
  • In cases of inflammatory oedema, erysipelas, fungal skin infection
  • For non-compliant patients

Specialist: Professor Judit Daróczy M.D.