To mark Lymphoedema Awareness Week this week, we want to recognise our amazing Lymphoedema team. We met with Louise and Sharon, Nurse Practitioners in the Lymphoedema department to find out more about some of their work.
Lymphoedema is a chronic condition that results from a failure of the lymphatic system. Symptoms include swelling, skin and tissue changes, and infections. It most commonly affects people’s limbs, but may also affect midline structures. Louise said, “The most common symptoms we see include general discomfort, heaviness, reduced movement, difficulty walking, and difficulty fitting shoes and clothes. There aren’t any ways to prevent Lymphoedema, and there’s a lot of research taking place as it’s still quite a misunderstood condition. There’s little evidence for treatments out there, which results in a big psychological impact for people, which is often missed.”
Describing the psychological impact the condition can have on patients, Sharon said, “A big thing for us is our patients’ mental wellbeing. It’s important to establish what each patient wants, because it’s different for everyone, and some people only feel comfortable talking to us. We see each patient every three months so it’s a long time for them to build up anxieties. When they visit us again after three months, sometimes their symptoms haven’t been resolved, so that can be a big challenge. Before they come to us many patients are just told that they’re overweight, and they often come to us extremely upset. A large amount of their first appointment is often taken up discussing their worries and concerns. Many people also think they’re coming here for a cure, but we can only help make their condition more comfortable.”
The team often help patients staying on our wards manage the symptoms of their Lymphoedema by using massage. Sharon said, “It’s amazing to know we’ve made able to make people more comfortable before they pass away.”
The team are also extremely thankful for the equipment they have access to as well. Louise said, “We’re very lucky to have the equipment we have here. Some places don’t have the equipment we use and need, but it’s only thanks to fundraising that we have it. For example, we had a lymph scanner donated which has been great for us, but more importantly our patients. It’s allowed us to identify whether patients have Lymphoedema or Lipoedema and provide even better care.”
Sharon adds, “Patients who’ve had a similar service in a different area say that the care they get here is fantastic. That feedback helps us to remember that we’re making a difference to people’s lives”.