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3 Ways Doctors Test For Lymphoedema

In the past, testing for lymphoedema was very difficult but nowadays there are plenty of ways that doctors or other health professionals can test for lymphoedema (if you haven't heard of lymphoedema, feel free to take a look at What is Lymphoedema.

A few ways that doctors test for lymphoedema nowadays is:

1. Check symptoms and medical history

2. Examine affected body part

3. Measuring limb volume

In some cases, tests to calculate the volume of an affected limb may be carried out. These may include:

  • a tape measure to measure the circumference of the limb at certain intervals, to calculate its volume

  • water displacement – where you place the affected limb in a tank of water and the amount of water that is displaced is measured to calculate the volume of the limb

  • perometry – infrared light is used to measure the outline of an affected limb and calculate its volume

4. Bioimpedance testing

During a bioimpedance test, electrodes (small metallic discs) are placed on different parts of your body. The electrodes release a small and painless electric charge that is measured using a handheld device. Changes in the strength of the current can indicate the presence of fluid in your tissue.

5. Imaging tests

Imaging tests may also be used to help diagnose and monitor lymphoedema. These include:

  • a lymphoscintigraph – you are injected with a radioactive dye that can be tracked using a special scanner; this shows how the dye moves through your lymphatic system and can check for any blockages

  • a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of your body

  • an ultrasound scan – which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the inside of your body

  • a computerised tomography (CT) scan – which uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the lymph nodes

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