Treatments for Lymphoedema

Even though Lymphoedema is a chronic illness, fortunately there are techniques that can help reduce side effects. Lymphoedema comes in three stages, and knowing how to decrease swelling will stop you from progressing to the worst stage. Even in some cases if you are in the third stage, doing simple techniques can help you lower your stage ranking. 

Lymphoedema stages:

Stage 1
Abnormal flow in the lymphatic system. No signs or symptoms.
Stage 2 Accumulation of fluid with swelling. Swelling resolves with elevation. Pressing on the area may leave a dent.
Stage 3
Permanent swelling that does not resolve with elevation. Pressing on the area no longer leaves a dent. Changes in the skin with scarring and thickening.
Stage 4
Elephantiasis (large deformed limb), skin thickening with “wart-like” growth and extensive scarring.

 

Treatment for lymphoedema aims to reduce and control swelling, help with discomfort, and stop fluid build-up. Seeing a lymphoedema specialist will help to create the right treatment plan for you.

Techniques: 

Skin Care  Keep your skin in good condition to prevent/reduce the risk of infections.

External Support/Compression

Compression garments to help prevent the swelling from building up in the limb.

Exercise and Movement

Exercise is generally good for a swollen limb, as it 
helps increase the flow of lymph, but as long as it's an activity you're used to. Too much activity, particularly if you start suddenly, can cause your swelling to increase. 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Simple hand movements used to try and move the swelling out of the affected area. This is done by a specialist, which can be taught to you or a career. 
Kinesio Taping 
This taping therapy was originally designed to help with sporting injuries, but can also help reduce swelling. 
Multi-Layer Lymphoedema Bandaging (MLLB) 
This is a multi-layer system of bandages, which provides a rigid casing for the muscles to work against. This helps to improve the shape and size of severe swelling and reduce the hardness of the tissues.
 

Along with treatment, your lymphoedema specialist will also advise you to avoid pressure on the area. This is because it can affect the flow of lymph fluid. This may depend on which part of the body is affected.

Try avoiding having blood pressure, injections and blood tests on the affected arm as this can increase swelling. Wearing tight clothing and jewellery can have the same impact.