Medical Q&As

Lymphoedema - how can I get rid of it?

Two years ago I was diagnosed with lymphoedema in my legs. It was explained to me that the "lymph canals in my feet had collapsed". I had vein scans that showed up clear and therefore there was no need to worry. I was told it was more a cosmetic problem. I am 31 years old and have feet and ankles like my grandmother. They swell up quite a lot and look unsightly, enough not to wear a skirt. What can I do to eliminate this unsightly swelling?

Lymphoedema can be a chronic problem and management of the complaint is not entirely satisfactory. The term means swelling of the limbs due to an accumulation of lymph in the subcutaneous tissues. Traditional treatments such as rest, elevation of the legs and diuretics or fluid tablets may help some forms of leg swelling but have little effect on lymphoedema. Treatment is aimed at minimising swelling through the use of pressure gradient stockings and some cases may require the use of intermittent pressure devices at night. It is not possible to drain the lymph from the legs because it usually becomes organised under the skin and loses its fluid nature. Therefore you cannot remove it with a needle and syringe as you would with blood or joint fluid. It is essential that you take care of your skin with regular moisturising and also to treat any little cuts or abrasions on the skin, since such minor injuries can become infected more easily in people with lymphoedema. You might like to check out www.lymphoedema.org which is an information site devoted solely to this topic.