Lymphoedema Service

About Us

The North Devon Lymphoedema Service is part of the Health and Social Care directorate and covers the population of North Devon and North Cornwall. It is a nurse led service consisting of a full time Lymphoedema Clinical Nurse Specialist and Lymphoedema Specialist Practitioner with a part-time dedicated Administrator. The service is provided Monday – Friday during the hours of 08:30 – 16:30 hours with appointments held in clinic at Barnstaple Health Centre

The team aims to provide evidence based, high quality, best practice for people with the long term conditions of cancer and non-cancer related lymphoedema and lipoedema in line with local, national and international guidelines. They also provide advice, support, education and developmental opportunities to other professionals.

What is lymphoedema?

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and glands, forming part of your immune system but is also responsible for helping to maintain the balance of fluid within your body, by draining excess fluid from the tissues. When the lymphatic system is not working correctly fluid builds up within the tissues and causes the affected area to swell, this is called lymphoedema. It can affect any part of the body but is most commonly seen in an arm or a leg.

There are two types of lymphoedema: primary or secondary. Primary lymphoedema is due to a defect within the lymphatic system, present since birth but can develop without obvious cause at different stages of life, usually up to early adulthood. Secondary lymphoedema is damage caused to the lymphatic system, for example through; trauma, infection, reduced mobility, cancer and some cancer treatments.

What is lipoedema?

Lipoedema is the abnormal buildup of fat cells in the legs, thighs and buttocks, with occasional arm involvement but excludes the hands and feet. The cause is not known but is considered an inherited condition, as in 50% of cases there is a family history, almost exclusively affecting women. It tends to start at puberty or times of hormonal change and develops gradually. A person with lipoedema may eventually develop lymphoedema if the fat cells prevent drainage of the lymph fluid.

How do I access the service?

Patients are referred to the service by other healthcare professionals including GP’s, Practice Nurses, Community Nurses, North Devon District Hospital and North Devon Hospice, using the referral criteria found on the hospital intranet or in writing.

What does the service provide?

Lymphoedema and lipoedema cannot be cured but it is usually possible to control the main symptoms.

The treatment, support and advice offered will be discussed after an individual assessment and will include:

  • The promotion of self-management and risk reduction strategies – e.g. skin care, exercise, elevation, weight management

And may include:

  • Compression therapy with bandaging and /or garments
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage: a specialist form of massage, as part of a course of treatment
  • Simple Lymphatic Drainage teaching for self-management
  • Low Level Light Therapy
  • Intermittent Pneumatic Compression: a treatment that imitates Manual Lymphatic Drainage
  • Medical taping
  • Monitoring and support

The service also provides:

  • Preoperative assessment and postoperative follow up for those diagnosed with breast cancer

And is committed to:

  • Raising the profile of lymphoedema and lipoedema and the service provision locally

Where can I find more information?

More information can be obtained from:

  • The British Lymphology Society – thebls.com – Telephone: 01452 452 790178
  • Lymphoedema Support Network – lymphoedema.org – Telephone: 020 7351 0990

Patient information leaflets

Last updated: November 20, 2017