Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation



New Hope for Eye Bags

Loosen Your Bra Straps for Lymphoedema

New Relief For Lymphoedema Patients

Do You Have Lymphoedema?


New Hope for Eye Bags
First Published: Enews - June 2012


Researchers from Flinders University have set their sights on lymphatic drainage as a potential cure for unsightly eye bags.


Professor Neil Piller from the FMC Lymphoedema Research Unit is about to begin a study to explore the role of lymphatic drainage as a treatment for eye bags and puffiness, a perennial cosmetic problem that tends to worsen with age.


Genes, fluid retention, diet and sleep disturbances are all known causes of eye bags, yet there is no scientifically proven therapy to treat the condition.


Professor Piller said the Lymphoedema Research Unit is now conducting a study to determine whether manual lymphatic drainage can diminish the appearance of eye bags,dark circles and puffiness by removing excess fluid and colour-changing pigments.


Manual lymph drainage is a gentle, non-invasive technique that is widely used by beauticians, spa therapists and aroma therapists to enhance fluid movement in the skin, although its therapeutic role in under-eye problems has been relatively under-researched.


"Eye bags are a cosmetic issue rather than a life-threatening condition, but they can be quite problematic for people who have them because they're often very prominent on the face," Professor Piller said.


"So we'll be measuring the effect of manual lymphatic drainage on the severity, colour and appearance of the under-eye area and hopefully the research will lead to a therapy to treat this condition."


Professor Piller said a total of 80 women, aged between 25 and 60, were needed for the study, including some without eye bags or dark circles to provide a comparison.


Participants with eye bags will be allocated to one of three groups, he said, and receive one of the following treatments - a specialised facial massage five days a week for four weeks, a self-treatment device to use at home or a package of commercial skincare products for the month-long trial.


"At regular intervals throughout the treatment we will use non-invasive equipment and 3D images to measure the area under the eyes to detect any changes in fluid accumulation or blood flow, as well as any colour or temperature changes to the skin," Professor Piller said.


For more information, or to take part in the study, contact Professor Piller, Jan Douglass or Marielle Esplin at the Lymphoedema Research Unit on 8204 4903 or via email.


Loosen Your Bra Straps for Lymphoedema
First Published: Enews - March 2010

Flinders researchers are investigating whether a patient's bra may play a key role in helping cause or exacerbate lymphoedema of the breast or arm.

Lymphoedema, a condition of localised swelling, occurs when the fluid in the body's tissues cannot be moved by the lymphatic system (a delicate network of small vessels responsible for managing the body's fluid levels).

Women who have undergone surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer are particularly susceptible to lymphoedema as their treatment may have resulted in damage to the lymphatic system of the breast, chest and armpit.

Professor Neil Piller (pictured) and his team from the FMC Lymphoedema Assessment Clinic are investigating whether other factors may play a role in causing the swelling, such as bras which exert higher pressures on remaining lymph pathways.

The team are conducting a long term trial to determine whether made-to-measure bras, which are less restricting and allow for better lymphatic drainage than shop-bought-bras, will reduce the incidence and severity of breast lymphoedemas.

"There is no doubt that the superficial lymphatic system is susceptible to constant external pressure.  It could be that the wrong placement of the shoulder strap of the bra is a factor in causing the arm or breast to swell unnecessarily," Professor Piller said.

25 women recruited from the Flinders Surgical Oncology Clinic are currently participating in the trial, which invoves measuring the pressures exerted by their bras and the changes in the composition in the breast using a range of equipment developed by Flinders biomedical Engineering.  The women are then followed up every three months.

Professor Piller said early findings show excessively high bra strap, side panel and under-wire pressures are leading to reduced lymph flow, poor breast tissue health and fluid accumulation in some women.


New Relief For Lymphoedema Patients
First Published: Investigator - July 2009


New developments in treatments are improving the quality of life for lymphoedema patients at Flinders Medical Centre.


Following the success of a recent clinical trial, which tested the impact of electrical stimulation of the lymphatic vessels in patients with secondary lymphoedema of the legs following cancer treatment, Flinders’ Lymphoedema Assessment Clinic is successfully using the Body Flow patient treatment program.


The Body Flow treatment program has been found to be effective in stimulating the lymphatic system for up to a week in patients with lymphoedema, easing symptoms and providing welcome relief.


Patients are also benefiting from new research recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine which suggests that controlled exercise is beneficial for breast cancer patients who subsequently develop lymphoedema.


The findings quash the long-held belief that exercise can exacerbate the symptoms of lymphoedema.


‘This and other studies have shown some significant benefits in terms of strength, range of movement and quality of life in women with lymphoedema who undertake weight lifting and weight-bearing exercise,’ Professor Neil Piller, director of the Lymphoedema Assessment Clinic said.


However, he stressed that it was important for patients to warm up and warm down before and after exercise, and not to carry heavy loads over a long distance.


‘It’s okay to carry a higher load for a short period of time, such as when lifting small weights, but patients must then ensure they warm down afterwards.’


He said properly preparing for exercise would offset and reduce any pressure around the lymphatics that built up during exercise due to increased blood flow.


Lymphoedema is a swelling of the limbs which is generally caused by damage to the lymphatic system following surgery and radiotherapy for cancer. When lymphoedema occurs, the remaining lymphatic system can have trouble clearing fluid and waste products from the cells in the tissues, eventually causing fluid accumulation and the development of uncomfortable swollen limbs.


In the Body Flow trial, conducted at Flinders Medical Centre, mild electrical stimulation was delivered to the smooth muscles of the walls of the lymphatic vessels and the abdominal areas in patients with lymphoedema to help improve lymph flow. Patients were then taught how to use their breathing and exercise and activity patterns to continue to help maintain lymph flow when at home.


‘The electrical stimulation of the lymph vessels can mimic what exercise and activity does, that is increase lymph flow thus improving tissue health,’ Professor Piller said.


Professor Piller said the latest research findings and the results of the electrical stimulation trial was good news for people with lymphoedema.


‘It allows us to offer patients new treatment strategies which will hopefully improve the quality of their day-to-day life.’


Do You Have Lymphoedema?
First Published: Investigator - February 2005


The Flinders Lymphoedema Assessment Clinic is undertaking three large scale clinical trials.


One trial involves the application of an ointment to the arms of women with lymphoedema following treatment for breast cancer.


The second trial involves the use of a new lymphatic vessel stimulatory program to the legs of men and women who have lymphoedema following treatment for cancer of the bowel, reproductive systems, or due to the removal of lymph nodes in the groin associated with melanoma.


The third trial involves the testing of a Tai Chi exercise program - one hour per week for nine weeks for women with arm lymphoedema following treatment for breast cancer.


If you have lymphoedema and would like further information on the Clinic please call 8204 4711.

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