Treatment for lymphoedema aims to reduce and control swelling, relieve discomfort, and prevent more build-up of fluid. It aims to encourage other healthy parts of the lymphatic system to be more effective and prevent further problems.
Following treatment, the affected limb or area should become less swollen, be easier to move, and feel more comfortable.
Sometimes it may take several weeks or months before you notice any real improvement.
Learning how to manage lymphoedema yourself is the main part of the treatment. At first it may seem overwhelming and feel unfair that you have all this to deal with. It’s normal to have these difficult feelings.
After you have been assessed by your lymphoedema specialist, they will discuss the best way to manage the lymphoedema. They will explain, and show you, what you can do for yourself. This is likely to involve a combination of skin care, exercises, a simple form of skin massage and wearing a compression garment. Some of the treatments may need to be done every day to give the best results.
Gradually you can build your lymphoedema care into your daily routine. Family and friends often want to help and there may be practical things they can do. They could help with heavy lifting or carrying, or help you with your compression garment or simple skin massage. Taking good care of yourself is also important.
Treatment for lymphoedema affecting an arm or leg involves:
- skin care to prevent injury and infection
- positioning and moving your limb to help drain fluid
- exercising and keeping active to improve the flow of lymph
- daily deep-breathing exercises
- for some people, using compression garments such as sleeves, stockings, special bras, or compression bandages
- in some situations, specialised massage, called manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), or self-massage, called simple lymphatic drainage (SLD), to help drain fluid.
We also have information about how lymphoedema in the breast or chest, the head or neck, or the genitals is treated.