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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Answer

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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