The impact of chronic oedema can have a devastating effect on the physical, psychological and social well-being of the patient which is unique to each individual patient and should never be underestimated.
The effect may include:
Physical – increased swelling of legs and feet affecting the ability to wear tighter fitting clothing and most types of shoes. Any mobility problems are increased by the extra weight of the legs and by wearing ill fitting or unsuitable footwear to accommodate the swelling. Superficial ulceration can be very painful and leads to extensive exudate formation and increased risk of cellulitis. Skin changes are unsightly and patients often feel their legs are dirty.
Patients with mobility or range of movement problems due to arthritis, obesity etc, may have some difficulty reaching their feet to allow washing or application of hosiery. These physical aspects of chronic oedema can have a profound impact on psychological well-being. The very nature of having to adapt clothing and footwear, disguise the large and unsightly limbs, and deal with exudating wounds causes embarrassment and impacts on body image, self esteem and relationship issues. Social isolation and reduced employment opportunities are also common in chronic oedema.
Lymphoedema patients report similar problems as above but also suffer from fear of recurrence if cancer related and in primary lymphoedema difficulties with obtaining a diagnosis and referral for treatment.