Lymphedema - Treatment

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What are possible treatments for lymphedema?

There is no cure for lymphedema. Treatments are designed to reduce the swelling and control discomfort and other symptoms.

Compression treatments can help reduce swelling and prevent scarring and other complications. Examples of compression treatments are:

  • Elastic sleeves or stockings: These must fit properly and provide gradual compression from the end of the extremity toward the trunk.
  • Bandages: Bandages that are wrapped more tightly around the end of the extremity and wrapped more loosely toward the trunk, to encourage lymph flow out of the extremity toward the center of the body.
  • Pneumatic compression devices: These are sleeves or stockings connected to a pump that provides sequential compression from the end of the extremity toward the body. These may be used in the clinic or in the home and are useful in preventing long-term scarring, but they cannot be used in all individuals, such as those with congestive heart failure, deep venous thrombosis, or certain infections.
  • Manual compression: Massage techniques, known as manual lymph drainage, can be useful for some people with lymphedema.
  • Exercises: Exercises that lightly contract and stimulate arm or leg muscles may be prescribed by the doctor or physical therapist to help stimulate lymph flow.

Surgical treatments for lymphedema are used to remove excess fluid and tissue in severe cases, but no surgical treatment is able to cure lymphedema.

Infections of skin and tissues associated with lymphedema must be promptly and effectively treated with appropriate antibiotics to avoid spread to the bloodstream (sepsis). Patients affected by lymphedema must constantly monitor for infection of the affected area. In affected areas of the world, the drug diethylcarbamazine is used to treat filariasis.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: dalcrazy, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: December 16

My lymphedema is caused by nodes being removed due to breast cancer. I have had it for 13 years and had two bouts of cellulitis. I have had lymphatic drainage every two weeks by a certified lymph drainage person. I also have various sleeves and wraps.

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Comment from: Nnenda C, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: December 09

I was diagnosed with primary lymphedema in 1990 after I had a knife injury on my left foot; it affected the both legs. I had a corrective surgery on my lymph nodes, the surgery was carried out on both the sides of my legs and on my foot, three surgeries on the right leg and three surgeries on my left leg. After the operation I was advised by the doctor to always raise my legs with a pillow above my body level and that it will help the fluid flow from my foot to my body and it has been working for me. My left leg has stopped swelling I am managing the right leg by raising it up above my body level. I have been managing it for 23 years now.

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