Treating Lymphedema

The two-fold goals of lymphedema treatment are:
   a) reduce the swelling in the affected area to normal conditions, and
   b) assist the lymphatic system in maintaining a non-swollen state through compression therapy.

Reducing Swelling

Reducing a swollen area to normal size can take some time and is accomplished with a variety of measures. Often, a trained doctor or therapist will perform Manual Lymphatic Drainage. This method is similar to massage, and gently pushes the fluids through the vessels, back to where the lymphatic system can properly circulate them. This method is non-invasive, requires no medication, is not painful and produces immediate results. Several sessions may be needed to completely drain swollen areas.

This treatment is immediately followed by wrapping the affected area with compression bandaging. Tightly wrapped bandages prevent the fluid from re-accumulating. It also assists in breaking down scar tissue. It is important to keep the bandages on at all times, other than during cleaning and treatment. This stage of treatment will not last forever!

Maintaining a Healthy State

Once the affected area is reduced to a normal size, it is important to prevent a recurrence. Your doctor or therapist will measure you for compression garments, which will maintain pressure on your lymphatic system to keep the vessels healthy and functioning. These garments are more flexible than the original bandaging, and are designed to match your skin tone and daily use needs. You wear them anytime you are awake, other than during cleaning and skin treatment.

Exercise is also important in preventing swelling and infection. Muscle movements push fluids through your circulatory system, assisting in the fight against gravity. Your therapist will teach you exercises specific to the affected areas of your body. These exercises will also increase joint flexibility. Keep your compression garment on while exercising!

Skin care is very important as it is more delicate and dry when dealing with lymphedema. Affected areas are prone to infection and trauma, so bruising, cuts, and dryness must be avoided by a preventative care program. Use a soap with a low pH, without antibacterial agents, and without perfumes (e.g. Cetaphil). Moisturize the skin after bathing, and as needed with a lotion like Nivea or Eucerin. Make sure that skin is dried completely but gently after washing. Avoid activity that would cause bruising or irritation to the area. Even a splinter or torn cuticle can be an open door for bacteria.

Verified by guidestar
Supported by grants from Susan G. Komen SW Florida
Information provided by Lymphedema Resources, Inc. is intended solely for education and should not be construed as medical advice or guidance which should always be obtained from a physician or other licensed healthcare professional.

Lymphedema Resources, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) Federal tax exempt public charity under the Internal Revenue Code. Donations to Lymphedema Resources, Inc. are tax deductible as allowed by law.

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