What is the role of pharmacologic therapies in the treatment of lymphedema?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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As previously mentioned, few pharmacologic therapies have been found to be effective in the treatment of lymphedema. Case reports have suggested, however, that chronic lymphedematous changes (eg, elephantiasis nostra verrucosa [ENV]) can be treated with oral and topical retinoids. These therapies are thought to help normalize keratinization and decrease inflammatory and fibrotic changes. [78, 79]

Topical emollients and keratolytics, such as ammonium lactate, urea, and salicylic acid, have been recommended to improve secondary epidermal changes.

Patients experiencing recurrent lymphangitis or cellulitis may require long-term, prophylactic treatment with antimicrobial agents such as penicillin, cephalexin, or erythromycin. [72, 73]

Filariasis has been treated with the anthelmintic agents diethylcarbamazine and albendazole. [74]

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