What do blue lights on Niagara Falls, breast cancer survivors drinking cups of tea in Australia, and people wearing odd socks in the UK all have in common?

These and other events around the world will mark World Lymphoedema Day on March the 6th to raise #LymphoedemaAwareness

The WHO estimates that globally 140 – 170 million people are living with lymphoedema of some form. Lymphoedema is an incurable disease caused by damage or malformation within the lymphatic system, and the causes are many. The best-known cause is treatment for breast cancer which usually involves removal or irradiation of lymph nodes in the arm pit, resulting in lymphoedema of that arm in about 30% of patients. Other oncology treatments such as bowel, prostate and melanoma cancer can also cause lymphoedema. Traumatic injury, obesity and some infections can all be responsible for the damage lymphatic damage that leads to lymphoedema and then there are also some congenital forms. The single largest cause is lymphatic filariasis, a thread like worm that make its home in the human lymphatic system in many tropical countries.

Lymphoedema is an incurable swelling in the affected body part, and almost any body part can be affected, legs, arms, breasts and genitals being the most common areas that swelling can occur. It is a distressing and disfiguring condition and if left untreated can become disabling and lead to secondary bacterial and fungal infections which further exacerbate the swelling.

To make things worse, many people with lymphoedema don’t get very good advice about how to reduce their risk of progression and this is especially true for the 16 million people in developing countries living with filarial lymphoedema. Lymphatic filariasis generally occurs in remote and rural areas where it is strongly associated with poverty.

The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) aims to create a future free of lymphatic filariasis through; promoting the research priorities and strategies of the LF elimination effort, providing opportunities for country staff to further their training and education in LF in a mutually beneficial fashion, and raising public awareness that the debilitating, disabling, poverty-related disease that is LF can be eliminated.

Donations to the Global Alliance go to the endemic countries to help fund community education and treatment of the symptoms of LF (including limb care for lymphoedema. Donations are tax deductible in the United States.

This March 6th we are asking for your help to raise #LymphoedemaAwareness

Here are some ideas to get you thinking

  • Take time to talk to someone about what it’s like to live with lymphoedema
  • Host a fundraising morning tea on World Lymphoedema Day and donate the proceeds to GAELF at www.gaelf.org/donate
  • Download and print the ‘You can change my life’ Brochure or share on social media
  • Share the GAELF donation link on Facebook and Twitter www.gaelf.org/donate
  • Post photos of your World Lymphoedema Activity with the Hashtag