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Lymphoedema: causes, treament, complications, risk factors, medication

Produced by the British Lymphology Society for BLS awareness week earlier this year, the following is a quick guide for GPs to lymphoedema. You can also download a pdf of the guide, plus information for patients and a detailed guide to the condition.

1. CAUSES

a. Primary – Hereditary, congenital
b. Secondary – Many cancers and their treatments, venous disease, immobility, injury, filariasis

2. TREATMENT

a. Skin care – daily inspection, washing and moisturizing of skin
b. Exercise and maintenance of mobility
c. Compression garments / multi-layer lymphoedema bandage
d. Simple / Manual Lymphatic Drainage
e. Referral to specialist clinic

3. COMPLICATIONS

a. Cellulitis
b. Lymphorrhoea
c. Skin changes
d. Skin folds
e. Social/Psychological impact – lowered self-esteem, difficulties at work, finding clothes etc

4. RISK FACTORS

a. Any previous cancer anywhere – even if many years ago
b. Lymph node removal: irradiation increases the risk
c. Venepuncture or blood pressure on at risk or oedematous limb
d. Infection – cellulitis & fungal infections

5. MEDICATION

a. NONE – condition requires self management and specialist support
b. Diuretics only if patient has cardiac history
c. Antibiotics as per Consensus Document for Cellulitis
d. Pain control – need to identify cause of pain.

The 5-guide to lymphoedema A detailed guide to lymphoedema Lymphoedema: a guide for patients

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