Lymphedema Treatment

A comprehensive overview of lymphedema covering subjects as symptoms, diagnostics, research, causes and pictures
Lymphedema Treatment

Lymphedema treatment

     Lymphedema treatment depends on the cause and it includes wearing compression garments such as tight socks or sleeves, a proper nutrition and skin care, and the drainage of excess fluids. Raising a swollen arm or leg can help drainage the lymph on the affected limb. Whenever possible, we recommend the resting of the affected limb on a comfortable surface, above the heart level. It is prohibited the compression of the armpit or of the groin area and holding the affected limb up for a long time without being supported by a support, as this can increase fluid accumulation.

     Mild exercise can help reduce swelling. Muscle contraction during exercise usually helps the circulation of fluids, which can reduce swelling. However, exercise increases blood flow to the requested muscles, which can increase the amount of fluid present. If there is swelling it is recommended a proper bandaging of the affected limb before exercising. Patients may request information about the type of permitted exercise from the doctor.

How to treat lymphedema?

     There are four components of treatment, as follows:

  • Skin Care
  • The use of the affected area
  • Application of massage techniques
  • External support

     Lymphedema treatment should be individualized for you. It might not be necessary to use all the available treatments for you, or they can be administered at different times or in different order.

Lymphedema skin care

     The skin care in the affected area is very important because it can help reduce the risk of infection. Whether you take a bath or a shower, the swollen area should be washed thoroughly every day. The water mustn't be too hot, because it will increase the blood flow and it may worsen the edema. Most people wash their hands well, but it is equally important to dry the skin very good especially between the fingers and under the rings (if you wear any). The legs are harder to take care of because you get harder to them. If this is a problem, ask someone to wash and wipe the area between your toes, as fungal infections often occur there. They should be treated as soon as possible.

     Other areas that require special care in washing and drying are:

  • the area under the breasts
  • the area behind the ears
  • other areas affected by swelling or scarring after the surgery.

     The skin which is stretched excessively can dry and crack, this might mean that an infection can occur. Use a moisturizing cream every day to maintain skin suppleness, and you can prevent this problem. Choose a cream or lotion without perfume because the agents with a high content of perfume may cause irritation.

     Try to avoid temperature changes that can lead to increasing in the lymph fluid.

  • baths or showers, hot or cold
  • burns
  • sunburns
  • direct contact with ice or snow

     Try to avoid constricting the swollen area that may further reduce lymph drainage.

  • the measurement of the blood pressure on the affected limb
  • clothes that are too tight
  • jewels that are too tight as: rings, bracelets, watches
  • use an electric shaver to remove unwanted hair - cream hair removal can cause irritation and razors can scratch the skin also waxing can hurt your skin.

Massage techniques

     There are two types of massage used to treat lymphedema - manual lymphatic drainage and simple lymphatic drainage. These differ greatly from therapeutic massage and aromatherapy. Lymphatic drainage techniques offer a usual stimulation of the lymphatic vessels under the skin. It intensifies their activity and determines the lymph to find new ways to drain. This type of massage has a similar effect to the one of milking, removing the lymph from the swollen area. The affected area is not massaged than when using manual lymphatic massage of drainage. Regular massage can cause the appearance of some erosion areas, affecting the skin and increasing the supply of blood, and this thing increases the amount of lymph. Lymphedema treatment by these two methods of massage can be particularly effective if you have swelling of your face, neck, upper arm, thigh, torso and genital organs.

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