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Feature Article

Lymphoedema: breaking the swollen cycle

HELEN MACKIE, DEBORAH GEYER, SUSAN HODSON

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Abstract

Lymphoedema can have a significant impact on a patient’s physical, psychological, social and financial wellbeing. Its early detection and appropriate management are pivotal in reducing the unnecessary suffering of affected patients.

Key Points

  • GPs will see both patients at risk of lymphoedema (for whom prevention is crucial) and those who already have lymphoedema.
  • Early detection of lymphoedema and intervention significantly improve patient outcomes, and early referral of patients to a qualified lymphoedema practitioner for treatment will achieve the best outcomes.
  • Compression is the mainstay of lymphoedema management but must be carefully prescribed to prevent adverse effects.
  • Lymphatic insufficiency may be an underlying cause for patients presenting with limb cellulitis; control of the swelling can reduce the frequency of cellulitis episodes.
  • GPs can facilitate prompt antibiotic therapy for lymphoedema-related cellulitis, which can present differently from classic cellulitis and usually requires a longer course of antibiotics.
  • Simple strategies can become part of an everyday routine for patients with support from their GP and lymphoedema practitioner.

    Picture credit: © Pixologic Studio/SPL

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