What is Lymphoedema?

Primary Lymphoedema and Secondary Lymphoedema is the chronic swelling of one or more body parts, most commonly an arm or leg.  If there is some sort of damage, blockage or defect of the lymphatic system, it fails to drain away the lymph fluid from the tissues effectively and this causes swelling.

There are two main categories of Lymphoedema, Primary lymphoedema and Secondary lymphoedema.


Primary lymphoedema is caused by alterations (mutations) in genes responsible for the development of the lymphatic system.

The “faulty” genes cause the parts of the lymphatic system responsible for draining fluid not to develop properly or not work as they should.

Primary lymphoedema often runs in families, although not every child born to someone with the condition will develop it themselves.


Secondary lymphoedema develops in people who previously had a normal lymphatic system that then becomes damaged.

It can have a number of different causes. Some of the most common causes are cancer treatment, injury, infection, immobility or inflammation of the limb.

What treatment can I get?

Lymphoedema Therapy

Lymphoedema Therapy consists of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), Compression Therapy, Skin Care and Remedial exercise. Applied together they form the Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT).

CDT –  two phases

The first phase is an intense period of compression bandaging with short stretch bandages, MLD if not contraindicated and kinesio taping, all to provide maximum outcome in reducing the swelling to a manageable size. Patients will come to the clinic several times a week or every day. Duration of that phase is entirely dependent on the individual patient’s condition.

Phase two is to move to self-management. During this phase a made to measure compression garment is provided. Skin care and remedial exercise complement compression therapy during both phases.

Patients are reassessed every 4 to 6 months and remeasured for made to measure garments

Manual Lymph drainage

MLD is a specialised, gentle form of skin massage which may be used as part of lymphoedema treatment.  MLD aims to encourage the extra lymph fluid to move away from the swollen area so it can drain normally. It includes special techniques to help to break down the fibrotic areas and more.

Post trauma or post-operative patient management

MLD Techniques together with kinesio taping are used to provide regular management of secondary lymphoedema particular due to trauma and post operative patient management to reduce swelling, improve the time of recovery, scar management and to improve the joint mobility.


Fluid retention during pregnancy can be managed with MLD and kinesio taping. Particularly relevant when there are unmanaged scars of C section from a previous pregnancy.