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Identification and treatment of chronic oedema and lymphoedema

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Identification and treatment of chronic oedema and Identification and treatment of chronic oedema and lymphoedema

The incidence of chronic oedema and lymphoedema rise with age. They affect around 4 people per 1,000 in the general population and around 29 people per 1,000 people aged 85 and over.4 Around 240,000 people in the UK are thought to have lymphoedema, this may be undiagnosed and untreated.5

As our population ages and people with lymphoedema and chronic oedema are living with multiple long-term conditions, rising levels of obesity and increasing frailty, management becomes more complex and challenging.6,7 Difficulties with diagnosis and complex care needs lead to many people not receiving optimal levels of care.8,9 Figure 1 shows rising numbers of older people in the UK.10

Chronic oedema

Chronic oedema is defined as oedema that has been present for three months or more.

Chronic oedema may be unrelated to, or co-exist with lymphoedema and can be complicated by other conditions such as venous disease, immobility and cardiac failure. Lymphoedema in older people can coexist with other conditions such as immobility that lead to oedema.11

All oedema regardless of cause exists in the tissues whenever capillary filtration exceeds lymphatic drainage.6 Figure 2 illustrates this.

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