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How Is Lymphedema Treated?
Lymphedema is not curable; although there are treatments that can help minimize the symptoms and ease discomfort.
Self-Care at Home for Lymphedema
Your health care practitioner can advise you about the best ways to care for your affected limb(s). In general, it is important to practice good skin hygiene and avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activity with the affected limb. Tight clothing and jewelry should also be avoided. Take care to avoid sunburn, insect bites, cuts, abrasions, and dehydration, since all of these can worsen lymphedema.
Surgery for Lymphedema
Various surgical procedures have been carried out, but no operation is able to cure lymphedema. When surgery is performed, the goal of treatment is the removal of excess fluid and/or scar tissue.
Medical treatment consists primarily of compression therapies to help stimulate the flow of lymph in the affected area. These must be practiced in cooperation with your health care practitioner or lymphedema therapist to ensure that they are performed correctly. There are different types of compression therapies available, ranging from compression garments and bandages to massage techniques and pneumatic compression devices. A general principle of compression therapies is that the pressure applied is greatest at the distal end (hand or foot) of the extremity and gradually decreases toward the center of the body. Your therapist may also recommend light exercises for the affected body part to help stimulate lymph drainage.
Medications are useful in the treatment of filariasis, which is the primary cause of lymphedema worldwide but rare in the U.S. Filariasis is treated with the drug diethylcarbamazine.
Antibiotics may be necessary for the treatment of secondary infections of the skin and subcutaneous tissues (see below) that are a frequent complication of lymphedema.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2016
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