Helping People Understand Lymphoedema

Photo: Erin Barker-Lymphoedema Nurse
Friday, 17 March 2017
As part of Lymphoedema Week during March, Portland District Health is helping people to find out more about “leaky legs”.

The light, amber coloured fluid that is beading and trickling from your skin is called lymph. The leaking or weeping of this protein rich lymph is known as lymphorrhea.

Disruption of the skin surface such as insect bites, abrasions, cuts, wounds or cracks in the skin can enable the lymph fluid to seep out.  Being overweight and putting pressure on your leg, blood and lymph vessels elevates blood pressure in the lower limb capillaries forcing fluid out into the tissues. A DVT can damage the blood vessels forcing fluid into the tissues, making legs swollen and tight and there is no other option but leak out. Medical conditions such as heart failure, lung disease, diabetes and kidney failure can also be a cause.

Open skin needs to be treated to avoid cellulitis, which is an infection of the skin tissue. If the skin becomes soggy due to the fluid there is a risk of skin break down.

Lymphorrhea may cause social difficulties and embarrassment.  Constant dripping of fluid can soak dressings, the bed, clothing, shoes or slippers requiring frequent changing.

To manage the condition, antibiotics and even hospitalisation are needed if there is cellulitis present.  People should clean the area around the leaking, apply a good moisturising cream to improve the condition of the skin and protect it from further breakdown.

Pressure is the key to stopping lymphorrhea. This is usually in the form of compression bandages, with a good quality non-stick absorbent dressing in contact with the skin. There are many good products on the market that do not require daily changing.

Commencement of manual lymphatic drainage massage by a Lymphoedema Practitioner is essential once any infection is cleared.

Once the lymphorrhea has been controlled, then management of medical conditions and lifestyle adjustments need to be commenced.

Portland people needing help can contact Lymphoedema Practitioner Erin Barker on PH:5521 0653.

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