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Century-old cure-all may provide relief for lymphoedema sufferers

21st March 2013

Century-old cure-all may provide relief for lymphoedema sufferers

Lucas' Paw Paw, a popular cure-all cream in Australia, is being subjected to a study on the benefits of its use for people with lymphoedema.

In the later stages of lymphoedema, people can develop hyperkeratosis and an overlying scale can form on the skin. This can be very uncomfortable and also leaves the patient more prone to infection as the skin is broken and bacteria has an obvious entry point.

Gold standard lymphoedema care involves removal of the scale and then combined decongestive therapy (manual lymph drainage, skin care, multi-layer bandaging and exercise). The removal process can further damage the skin. There are few treatments for hyperkeratosis in lymphoedema, although some studies have shown that using emollients when giving CDT can help.

Lucas' Paw Paw was created by botanist Dr Thomas Pennington Lucas more than 100 years ago. It is commonly used for minor burns, sunburn and scalds, rashes, cuts, nappy rash and chaffing and the relief of dermatitis and eczema. It is made from Paw Paw fruit, which is grown in Northern Australia and is thought to have antimicrobial properties.

There have been anecdotal reports by people with lymphoedema that Lucas' Paw Paw can help to soften the skin and reduce fissures and therefore reduce the risk of infections, which can make the condition worse.

This new study will compare Paw Paw ointment and CDT with Sorbolene emollient and CDT by looking at the effect on skin hyperkeratosis and scale. Patients with bilateral lymphoedema will have a different regimen for each leg, and those with unilateral lymphoedema will be randomly assigned to a group.

The comparisons will be made using photography, skin moisture, skin evaporation rates, fibrotic induration, overall limb volumes, areas of inflammation and overall quality of life.

The new study is being conducted by two postgraduate medical research students, Jake Norwicki and Alexander Siviour, at the Lymphoedema Research Unit, Flinders University, Australia, and the first results will be out in June 2013.

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