What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is swelling that develops because of a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues. This happens when the lymphatic system, which normally drains the fluid away, isn’t working properly. It can occur in any part of the body, but is most likely to affect an arm or a leg.

Lymphoedema develops when lymph nodes or vessels are damaged or blocked or if the lymph nodes have been removed by surgery. Lymphoedema is caused when lymph fluid cannot pass through the vessels or lymph nodes and the fluid cannot drain away in the usual way. The fluid then builds up between the tissues and causes swelling.

Lymphoedema is a chronic swelling. That means it is a condition that never goes away because the causes can’t be reversed. However, the swelling can be reduced in most people, particularly when it’s diagnosed early. Specialists in lymphoedema can assess and treat lymphoedema. They can also teach you how to manage it yourself.

‘I go to a lymphoedema clinic and if the nurse thinks there are no problems, I don’t have to go back for six months.’ Betty

Betty