Lymphoedema is a persistent swelling of any part of the body but is more commonly seen in the arms and the legs. This swelling is a collection of fluid within the tissues under the skin which cannot be drained by a needle.
This fluid, known as lymph, is colourless and odourless but is rich in protein. This high protein causes dryness of the skin, which can result in flaking, thickening and blistering.
If left untreated complications such as leaking fluid, ulcers, wounds and cellulitis can occur.
It is not known how many people have lymphoedema but it is estimated in Wales that at least 8000 people will have it. It is a fact that the older you get, the higher your risks of developing lymphoedema.
The lymphatic system works closely with the circulatory system. It drains fluid via lymph nodes and vessels back to the heart and kidneys. Lymph nodes can be thought of as recycling stations – all the fluid is checked for infections so that the body’s defence mechanism can be alerted. Thus the lymphatic system plays an important role in preventing and fighting infection, removing dead or abnormal cells and excess proteins. There are two types of lymphoedema: primary and secondary.
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