While there is no cure for lymphedema, options for managing and treating it include non-surgical and surgical treatment options.
Non-surgical Treatment Options for Lymphedema
Weight loss: Losing weight may help ease the symptoms of lymphedma
Compression pump therapy: Intermittent, sequential pumps that consist of chambers that inflate one at a time while moving up the limb, facilitating the movement of lymph fluid.
Exercise: The muscle pumping action of exercise promotes the drainage function of the lymphatic system.
Compression garments (bandaging): Help reduce limb size, decrease hardening, and prevent fluid from re-accumulating.
Laser therapy: Help reduce limb size, decrease hardening, and prevent fluid from re-accumulating.
The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers a network of women's health physical therapists that specialize in lymphedema treatment and management.
Surgical Treatment Options for Lymphedema
Lymphaticovenular bypass is a highly technical microscopic surgical procedure involving tiny incisions in the arm or leg. Using specialized microscopic tools, surgeons redirect the lymphatic fluid to drain through small veins. Since the incisions are not deep, there is little post-operative pain and the patient can go home within a day.
For patients with advanced lymphedema, a surgical debulking procedure enables doctors to remove hard connective tissue, or fibrosis, and fatty lymphatic tissue in the affected limb. Patients may need to wear life-long compression garments in addition to physical therapy post-surgery.