What is the focus of treatment for lymphedema?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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The goal of lymphedema therapy is to restore function, reduce physical and psychologic suffering, and prevent the development of infection.

Initiate therapy for lymphedema as early as possible before extensive, irreversible fibrosclerotic changes occur in the interstitium. Strict compliance with treatment techniques is essential, even though they are often cumbersome, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and time-consuming, with treatment lasting throughout the lifetime of the individual. The majority of compliant patients can be treated successfully with conservative measures. [63, 64, 65]

In secondary lymphedema, the underlying etiology (ie, neoplasm, infection) should also be properly treated, in order to relieve the lymphatic obstruction.

A few pharmacologic therapies have been found to be effective in the treatment of lymphedema. For example, the benzopyrones (including coumarin and flavonoids), when combined with complex physical therapy, have been successful against the disease. Diuretics are not effective in treating lymphedema.

The disease burden of lymphedema is substantial, particularly in underdeveloped countries, with barriers including availability, affordability, and accessibility of bandages. [66] In Kenya, dermatologists and pharmacists are collaborating to develop a two-component compression bandage using locally available materials.

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