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Counties Manukau Health Lymphoedema Service

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Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues. Arms and legs are the most common sites, but the head and neck, trunk or genitals can also be affected.

Lymphoedema can be inherited (primary lymphoedema) or it can occur as a result of damage to the lymphatic vessels (secondary lymphoedema). Causes of secondary lymphoedema include surgery involving the lymph nodes, radiation, cancers, repeated infections and trauma. These are the most common causes but lymphoedema can also occur for other reasons.

Common signs of lymphoedema include swelling that lasts longer than 3 months and does not go away, a feeling of heaviness in the limb or area affected and skin changes.

Treatments include a combination of skin care, exercise, weight management, lymphatic drainage, compression bandaging, and wearing a compression garment. Treatments vary according to need.

This page was last updated at 11:14AM on June 25, 2020.