The swelling associated with lymphedema can occur on different parts of the body and with varying levels of severity. Treatment depends on the individual, and can range from simple physical therapy to surgery.

Lymphedema causes swelling because of a buildup of lymph fluid in an area, usually an arm or leg.

This can decrease mobility of the limb, increase the chance of an infection forming, lead to discomfort or pain, and more.

Most common methods of treatment for lymphedema

Because lymphedema is sometimes debilitating, it can be highly beneficial for a patient to undergo a treatment plan to reduce their swelling. Understand that for some people with secondary lymphedema, the swelling naturally goes down over time. Below are the most common methods of treatment for lymphedema.

Range Of Motion Exercises

Range of motion exercises are simple exercises you do at home every day. Things like rotating your shoulder around in a circle or bending at the knee are examples of this.

Doing small exercises daily can help move the lymph fluid around, maintain muscle mass, increase blood flow, and improve your range of motion.

Compression Garments

Wearing compression garments or bandages around the affected area is one of the most common types of treatment. This is often combined with elevation of the swollen limb. Compression garments help reduce swelling and encourage lymph flow if worn regularly and fitted correctly by a professional.

Elevation

If your lymphedema is in an arm or leg, it is important to keep that limb elevated as often as possible. The limb should be held upwards, above your heart level.

This discourages an accumulation of fluid in the limb and can help reduce swelling. This is often combined with compression garments for an even greater effect.

Massage

Massage is a fantastic tool for easing swelling in lymphedema patients. It often involves manual lymphatic drainage, which is part of a special type of massage for lymphedema. Any type of massage helps, but lymphatic drainage is especially useful.

Surgery

One of the most common surgeries for lymphedema is liposuction, but there are quite a few options out there. The lymph buildup in lymphedema leads to an excess of fat cells in the area, so liposuction is useful for removing the excess fat and drastically reducing the level of swelling.

Other surgeries include lymphovenous anastomoses, which aims to reconstruct the damaged lymph nodes, and debulking, which is the removal of extra tissue in the swollen area.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Information on lymphedema is not all accurate, and should be updated based on more recent research and practice. Examples:
    1) “Doing small exercises daily can help move the lymph fluid around, maintain muscle mass, increase blood flow, and improve your range of motion.” While this is certainly true for a person with a normal lymphatic system, it may not for a person with an impaired lymphatic systemIncreased blood flow increases the load on an already overloaded lymphatic system.
    2) “Massage is a fantastic tool for easing swelling in lymphedema patients. It often involves manual lymphatic drainage, which is part of a special type of massage for lymphedema. Any type of massage helps, but lymphatic drainage is especially useful.” Traditional massage (and there are dozens of types) are not necessarily helpful to the lymphedema patient, and may be harmful. MLD, on the other hand, has been found to be beneficial with very few harmful effects.
    3) “Understand that for some people with secondary lymphedema, the swelling naturally goes down over time.” Some people? Lymphedema is a progressive condition, with destructive processes occurring which lead to fibrosis, loss of tone, inflammation and fat deposition. Early management is necessary, not dismissal with the hope that it will go down naturally. The effects of surgery, i.e. post surgical edema, often resolves in a few months, but that should not be confused with lymphedema, which is a chronic progressive condition, and, in the case of radiation damage, may not present until 6 months to 2 years after treatment.
    4) Surgery: Liposuction only indicated after other more conservative protocols tried and unsuccessful. Omits lymph node transfer, which is promising new technique. Debulking is absolute last resort.

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