Sock it to Lymphoedema

09/03/2018

Sock it to LymphoedemaAs part of Lymphoedema Awareness Week (4 - 10 March 2018) the Western Trust Lymphoedema Service have encouraged staff members throughout the Trust to wear odd socks to “sock it to Lymphoedema” to raise awareness of the condition. Patients have also got involved with their own groups and raised awareness about their condition in local schools and parent and toddler groups.

Lymphoedema affects 240,000 men, women and children in the UK. Within the Western Trust there are currently over 1,000 patients known to the Lymphoedema Service and yet it is still not a widely recognized condition.

Lymphoedema is a long term condition where the affected body parts swell causing discomfort, heaviness, decreased range of movement, loss of function and skin changes. However, with the right support and treatment there is much that can be done to improve both swelling and other symptoms.

Impairment of the lymphatic system may be present from birth (primary Lymphoedema) or may result from damage or trauma (secondary Lymphoedema). Common causes of secondary Lymphoedema include; cancer (following surgery, radiotherapy or the cancer itself), obesity, reduced mobility or paralysis, recurrent cellulitis infections or chronic venous insufficiency (often linked with obesity and reduced mobility).

The Western Trust Lymphoedema Service is located throughout the Trust area with outpatient clinics in Altnagelvin Hospital, Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex and South West Acute Hospital. The treatment provided by the Lymphoedema Service includes advice, skincare, exercise, specific massage techniques to encourage lymphatic drainage and the use of compression bandaging or garments.

Commenting on the condition, Jill Hamilton, Clinical Lead Lymphoedema, Western Trust said: “Lymphoedema is a chronic long term condition which can have a significant impact on patients both physically and psychosocially. Awareness of the condition within Northern Ireland and within the Western Trust locality has improved over this last number of years as evidenced by the growing demand on the service.

“Raising awareness of the condition has been embedded into the Lymphoedema Network Northern Ireland work plan for the last eight years and continues to be something we work on within our own Western Trust area. Early detection and early referral to the service can lead to a better outcome for patients, in the long term, by providing the necessary skills to be able to self-manage their condition.”

One of the patients commented on living with the condition said: “As a patient with secondary Lymphoedema it has taken a lot of getting used to. It has been a rollercoaster of a ride over the past seven years with getting used to wearing compression and finding the type that was going to keep my swelling under control. I've had over 20 bouts of cellulitis in just over two years but due to the care and expertise of Jill we have managed to stop this from reoccurring for around eight months now and have regular reviews to keep an eye on things. Without the support of the Lymphoedema service in the Western Trust I would not know how to manage the condition and to be able to live as normal a life as possible. It is a real lifeline to me as I know that there is someone on the end of the phone if I notice signs of infection or increased swelling. Without it I believe that I would not have such a positive attitude to Lymphoedema and this is down to Jill and her team.”

Patients with lymphoedema are more susceptible to infection known as cellulitis and it is very important for this to be treated promptly. Every episode of cellulitis is felt to impact on the lymphatic system further.

There are a number of paediatric patients within the Trust. Paediatric Lymphoedema is a rare condition and has been somewhat challenging for family and carers to come to terms with. In primary lympoedema the swelling is predominately in the lower limbs in particular those with a condition known as Milroy’s Disease. From an early age patients are taught self-massage, how to elevate their legs and wear compression hosiery. It is important for all patients with lymphoedema to try and maintain a healthy diet and an active lifestyle to prevent their condition from deteriorating.

One of our first paediatric patients is now six years old and when asked recently about her lymphoedema and what was important to teach people about lymphoedema. She said “Having lymphoedema makes me super special.  I can’t cross my legs on the floor so I sit on a chair and my lymphoedema hurts. My brother’s lymphoedema doesn’t hurt him as much as me, why? I have to get Physio and wear my stockings so my swelling doesn’t get worse.”

Lymphoedema can affect people very differently and it is important to complete an appropriate assessment to ensure patients are managed appropriately.

For more information regarding Lymphoedema and related services please visit; www.westerntrust.hscni.net or contact; 028 8283 3134/ lymphoedema.service@westerntrust.hscni.net