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Treatment for Lymphedema

Treatment for Lymphedema

The treatment for lymphedema is called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) which includes manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), compression bandaging, therapeutic exercise, skin and nail care, compression garment fitting and personalized education in self-care.  MLD is a gentle, hands-on massage that moves lymphatic fluid from the affected area to the healthy parts of your lymphatic system.  After MLD, the affected area is wrapped with layers of compression bandages to prevent reaccumulation of the lymphatic fluid. 

A medically supervised exercise program is designed to strengthen muscles and improve circulation and function of the lymphatic system.  Once the affected body part is decongested, you will be fitted for a medical compression garment which would be worn daily to help maintain results achieved during therapy. Our lymphedema therapists will teach you how to maintain your progress through a home maintenance program and they will also educate you on proper skin and nail care to prevent infections. 

Stages of Lymphedema:

There is no cure for lymphedema, but is can be treated and managed. A combination of manual lymph drainage, compression devices and protection of the skin in the affected area can make an important difference in the quality of life for patients with this condition. As with any medical condition, early diagnosis and treatment offer results for the best outcomes, but improvements can usually be seen in all stages of Lymphedema with patient cooperation and Complete Decongestive Therapy.

Stage One - Reversible

Lymphedema is considered reversible when a change in position - such as elevating the arm or leg can decrease the swelling and limb returns to normal size

Stage Two - Irreversible or Pitting

Lymphedema is at the pitting stage when the skin begins to toughen and pressing a finger in the site causes a lasting indentation. A change in position is usually ineffective at this stage.

Stage Three - Lymphostatic Elephantiasis

Extreme Lymphedema or Elephantiasis, can result in permanent tissue damage, scarring, disability and even a rare form of cancer. At this stage, the skin is tough, no longer pits when touched, and positioning has no effect on reducing swelling.