Diagnosing lymphoedema

Your lymphoedema practitioner or another health professional will ask about your medical history and assess the level of swelling and any pitting, thickening or damage to the skin. The size of the affected limb will be compared to the other limb, and any differences assessed.

This is done in different ways:

  • using a tape measure to measure circumference
  • using an electric charge (bioimpedance spectroscopy) to calculate the amount of fluid
  • taking photos of more difficult to measure areas, such as the head, neck, trunk and genitals
  • using a doppler ultrasound to rule out a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis)
  • less commonly, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or an ultrasound to show extra fluid in tissues or tissue changes
  • using infra-red imaging to show differences in skin temperature, which may be a sign of infection or the lymphatic system not working well.

Learn more about:

Staging lymphoedema

There are several staging systems used to describe lymphoedema, and the system most commonly used in Australia was developed by the International Society of Lymphology (ISL). It divides lymphoedema into mild, moderate and severe – from no swelling to gentle pressure leaving an indent on the skin (known as pitting). In the severe stage, the skin becomes hard and more fatty.

It is important for all stages of lymphoedema to receive ongoing treatment and care.

Who will provide treatment?

Lymphoedema usually requires care from a range of health professionals including a lymphoedema practitioner, your GP, podiatrist and dietitian.

Lymphoedema practitioners – may be an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or nurse with specialist training in treating and managing lymphoedema. A lymphoedema practitioner assesses people with lymphoedema, develops treatment plans, prescribes compression garments, and provides ongoing treatment and care. They may work as part of a lymphoedema service in a public or private hospital or in private practice.

Doctors – your GP, oncologist or surgeon may diagnose the condition, coordinate your medical treatment and refer you to a trained lymphoedema practitioner. Your GP will work with you to develop a treatment plan to manage cellulitis.

How to find a lymphoedema practitioner

The Australasian Lymphology Association maintains an online national register of trained lymphoedema practitioners. Visit the website and click on “Find a Practitioner” to search the register for a practitioner near you.

Some public and private hospitals may assess and treat lymphoedema through physiotherapy or occupational therapy departments.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF fact sheet on lymphoedema.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in June 2019
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