Raising awareness of lymphoedema in the Highlands

This Lymphoedema Awareness Week (3-9 March), it’s thought that more than 3,000 people suffer with the condition in the Highlands alone.

According to the NHS, lymphoedema results in disfiguring swelling in one or more parts of the body due to a damaged lymphatic system and can have a huge negative impact on a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

Louise Shakespeare, an NHS Highland advanced nurse for lymphoedema, is using Lymphoedema Awareness Week to try and promote awareness of the condition.

“Lymphoedema occurs when the lymphatic system fails to effectively drain fluid and other components such as protein from areas of the body,” says Louise.

“Lymphoedema can be genetic or as a consequence of anything that compromises the lymphatic system such as surgery or other physical trauma, radiotherapy, cellulitis, chronic skin conditions, immobility and obesity.

“If identified in the early stages the symptoms are often reversible with effective self-management. Early recognition and support for self-management will reduce the number of people presenting with conditions such as cellulitis, leg ulcers, and chronic oedema.

“Support includes information about the condition and the importance of skin care, exercise and weight management. The long term wearing of compression garments is also key to support the lymphatic and venous systems and reduce the swelling. There is something to suit everyone in the range of garments and colours available.

“Living with a long-term condition that affects your appearance, such as lymphoedema, can cause a great deal of distress and lead to periods of depression. Talking to other people who also have lymphoedema can be reassuring and decrease feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety.

“The Lymphoedema Support Group in Inverness meets on the fourth Thursday of the month from 1-2pm at Maggie’s Highland. The Lymphoedema Support Group in Fort William meets on the third Saturday of the month at Kilmallie Free Church Hall in Caol. Both groups are open to all those living with lymphoedema, regardless of cause.”

To find out more about lymphoedema services across the Highlands, visit the NHS Highland website. National resources include the Lymphoedema Support Network and the British Lymphology Society.

For massage therapists who may be able to help, with lymphatic drainage, for example, check out our A to Z of Massage.

But please note that it’s always advised to check with your doctor before undertaking any new treatment.

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