At present there is no cure for lymphoedema and it requires an ongoing commitment to treatment, but in partnership between the practitioner and person the condition can be managed well. The key to a successful outcome is early diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Treatment may consist of a combination of the following:
As the lymphatic system is not working properly waste products are not being removed efficiently and proteins build up in the tissues. This causes the skin to become dry and can lead to infection which makes the swelling worse. Good hygiene and application of a moisturiser is needed to keep the skin in good condition.
Regular, gentle exercise is important to help move the fluid away to another unaffected part of the body. Keeping a normal body weight is also important as being over weight can make lymphoedema worse.
Special support bandages or sleeves / stockings may be prescribed for affected areas and need to be worn every day and removed at night.
A special form of massage called manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) maybe used to move fluid from a congested area to an area that can drain more freely. This massage is only suitable in certain circumstances and should only be carried out by a suitably trained therapist. The trained therapist can also teach the person with lymphoedema a simplified version of MLD to help manage their condition themselves.