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.
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.
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 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.
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.