Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system. Lymphatic fluid accumulates in the tissues resulting in chronic and disfiguring swelling in one or more parts of the body, such as the legs and/or feet. Photo supplied

Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system. Lymphatic fluid accumulates in the tissues resulting in chronic and disfiguring swelling in one or more parts of the body, such as the legs and/or feet. Photo supplied

Lymphedema: shedding light on a misunderstood and undiagnosed disease

Advocates from around the world are joining together on March 6 to shine a light on an often misunderstood and undiagnosed disease – lymphedema.

The City of Courtenay is helping by approving a proclamation acknowledging this date.

BC Lymphedema Association (BCLA) founding member and local support group facilitator, Lynn Holloway, states that because there is no area of medicine that covers this disease, so many people go undiagnosed for years or do not know what to do to help themselves.

“BCLA was created for this very reason – we knew nobody was going to save us, so we had to save ourselves,” said Holloway, in a press release. “We are so very fortunate to have a trained lymphedema therapist in the Comox Valley, Bryan Hill, RMT, who is able to help people manage their disease more effectively.”

Lymphedema is an incurable disease afflicting 250 million people worldwide and about 130,000 in B.C. It is one of the most underdiagnosed diseases in the world. More people have it than MS, Parkinson’s, ALS, Aids and muscular dystrophy combined. It is estimated that one million Canadians are affected.

Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system through surgery, trauma, cancer treatment or genetic malfunction leading to improper development or dysfunction of the system. Lymphatic fluid accumulates in the tissues resulting in chronic and disfiguring swelling in one or more parts of the body.

The lymphatic system assists in maintaining fluid balance in the body and is an integral part of the immune system, transporting infection-fighting cells to tissues that require assistance. The affected part(s) of the body becomes prone to cellulitis infections. Complications from cellulitis can have serious, potentially life-threatening consequences.

Canada is quite behind other countries that offer various surgical options and have clinics where patients can live-in for a time to get their condition under control. In B.C. there have been a handful of doctors in the Lower Mainland with some knowledge and interest in the disease.

“We are excited to announce a new program, the VGH/UBC Lymphedema Program, which has been seeing patients for one afternoon per month at the Diamond Centre in Vancouver for the past year and is currently fundraising for equipment,” said Holloway. “This is the only evaluation service covered by MSP in B.C. Ongoing treatment is only available through private therapists offering specialized therapies such as manual lymph drainage.”

Management of this disease is costly, requiring daily or regular use of medical devices such as compression garments, pneumatic compression pumps, and/or specialized custom wraps and bandages. Garments and medical devices can range in price from around $100 to upwards of $10,000. Many people with lymphedema are unable to work at their former capacities or are on fixed incomes. All of these combine to create financial hardship for those with lymphedema that have to deal with this expensive condition on their own.

Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Valley woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

First in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Comox woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Most categories of crime held steady from year to year in Cumberland. File photo
Cumberland crime numbers hold steady year to year

A few categories had notable changes but many were similar to 2019

The colourful Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly has been reintroduced on Hornby Island, BC. Photo courtesy the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project.
Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project releases more caterpillars on Hornby Island

Chris Junck Special to Black Press The number of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies… Continue reading

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

Thw male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

Valen a student of Coldstream Elementary writes advice for adults amid a pandemic.
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Elementary students share their wisdom to adults in unprecedented times

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine ‘disappointing’

‘The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,’ Adrian Dix said Friday

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Most Read