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New animation helps lymphoedema patients recognise symptoms

Health and Wellbeing Academy

A new animated video has been developed by Swansea University to raise awareness of lymphoedema and help patients understand more about how their condition will be treated.

It is estimated that more than 200,000 men, women and children are living with lymphoedema, also known as chronic oedema, in the UK. Lymphoedema affects around 2 in 10 people with breast cancer, and 5 in 10 people with vulval cancer.

The lymphatic system is the body’s disposal system, carrying lymph around the body, fighting infection, and getting rid of waste products produced by cells. If the lymphatic system stops working, this can cause swelling, which can occur in all parts of the body, but most commonly in the legs and arms.

This swelling can become so severe that it causes fluid to then leak through the skin.  Living with a long-term condition that affects your appearance can lead to periods of isolation and physical inactivity.

This can exacerbate the problem and cause distress and lead to periods of depression. This in turn will have a negative effect on the health-related quality of life of the lymphoedema sufferer.

Lymphoedema Network Wales, which has been working closely with researchers from the College of Human and Health Sciences and the Health and Wellbeing Academy since 2014, have devised a pathway to help people who have been diagnosed with lymphoedema to manage their condition and provide them with the tools to carry on with everyday life.

The Wet Leg pathway helps patients to understand how they can take care of their condition, by providing guidance on diet, exercise, sleeping positions and compression (garments and bandaging) along with advice for managing cellulitis and fungal skin infections.

Senior research officer Ioan Humphreys said: “Lymphoedema is a condition that affects so many hundreds of thousands of people not just in the UK, but worldwide.

“By producing a quick, informative, and friendly animated video on what Lymphoedema is and how the Wet Leg pathway can help one live a normal life, if following advice from their specialist, it can help raise awareness and enhance the lives of those living with the condition.”

Humphreys has worked within the field of health economics and health services research for more thanr 14 years. He has worked with Lymphoedema Network Wales on economic evaluations research since 2014, and through his continued relationship with the team, he has developed a passion for generating robust value-based evidence in the field of lymphoedema.

Dr Melanie Thomas, national clinical lead for Lymphoedema in Wales said:

“It is vital that more people become aware of lymphoedema as it is not a rare condition. You only have to look around in a supermarket to see people with large swollen legs having difficulty in walking and wearing inappropriate shoes due to the oedema. Lymphoedema management can really make a difference in improving leg shape and size as well as healing wounds.

“The Chronic Oedema Wet Leg pathway is evidenced based and has a simplistic pathway to commence treatment. The research has also shown that the Wet Leg pathway leads to more cost-effective ways of managing lymphoedema. People with lymphoedema should not be suffering anymore.”

The University’s Health and Wellbeing Academy is working with researchers to develop this pathway further – and is asking for feedback from patients who have been diagnosed with lymphoedema. You can find more information about this pathway when you visit your lymphoedema specialist at the Health and Wellbeing Academy.