Lymphoedema is the accumulation of excessive amounts of fluid within the bodies tissues, resulting in swelling of one or more regions of the body.
It occurs due to a mechanical failure of the lymphatic system. As a result, a greater amount of fluid accumulates within an area than what the capacity of the lymphatic system can remove.
Stages of Lymphoedema
Stage 0: A latent or subclinical state where swelling is not evident despite impaired lymph transport.
Stage 1: This represents early onset of the condition where thiere is an accumulation of tissue fluid with higher protein content, which subsides with lumb elevation. The oedema may be pitting at this stage.
Stage 2: Limb elevation alone rarely reduced swelling and pitting is manifest. The later Stage 2 the limb may or may not pit as fat and fibrosis supervenes.
Stage 3: The tissue is hard (fibrotic) and pitting is absent. Skin changes such as thickening, hyperpigmentation, increased skin folds, fat deposits and warty overgrowth develop.
Stage 4: Encompases lymphostatic elephantiasis. At this stage, the swelling is spontaneously irreversible and usually the limb(s) is very large.
Limb complications of Lymphoedema
When left untreated lymphoedema reduces the availability of oxygen to the skin and surrounding tissues. This along with the excessive amounts of protein rich fluid, creates an environment where bacterial infections can thrive. Cellulitis, lymphangitis, lymphadenitis and skin ulcers are a real risk for persons suffering with lymphoedema.
Lymphoedema in the lower limb and foot can often lead to ulceration, and in severe cases amputation. Seeking early diagnosis and treatment is important for good health outcomes.
This article was written by one of our skilled podiatrists, Jane. To book in with Jane either give us a call and book in with her over the phone or select ‘Jane’ as your practitioner when booking online.
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