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Lymphedema (cont.)

Medical Treatment for Lymphedema

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.

Lymphedema Medications

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.

Lymphedema Prevention

Primary lymphedema cannot be prevented; it is possible to take steps to reduce your risk of developing secondary lymphedema if you are at risk.

  • Avoid heavy lifting (including carrying heavy purses) with an affected arm.
  • Drink plenty of fluids; dehydration can worsen lymphedema.
  • Avoid environmental irritants in the affected area, such asinsect bites or stings and sunburn.
  • Practice good skin care and hygiene.
  • Don't wear tight clothing or jewelry on the affected limb. Even the use of blood pressure cuffs on an affected arm should be avoided.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/27/2016

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