Treatment of Lymphedema

An evaluation is done by Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist or Certified Lymphedema Therapist.

Treatment time depends on category of the lymphedema.

  1. Mild: 6 - 8 treatment sessions. Instructions in self-massage, exercise and possible fitting with a compression garment to prevent refilling.

  2. Moderate/Severe: 7 - 8 sessions first two weeks and then 2 - 3 times per week for approximately six weeks depending on response. A caregiver will be instructed early on how to assist with bandaging since bandaging will need to be worn 22 out of 24 hours for approximately 2 - 3 weeks.

  3. Severe: 5 times weekly for two weeks and then 3 times and then 2 and then 1 for a total of 6 weeks. May need to be seen twice daily if results are minimal after the first week.

Treatment Sessions Include:

  1. Manual lymphedema treatment or drainage (MLT/MLD) for 30 - 60 minutes. Instruct on self-massage to encourage lymph flow.
  2. Medical Compression Bandaging using low stretch bandages. Instruction on bandaging at home.
  3. Exercise - while limb is bandaged or wearing a compression garment. Instruct on how exercise and conditioning program to be followed at home.
  4. Skin care - evaluation and instruction on self-care.

Consequences of Not Treating Lymphedema

  1. Increase in girth size from 2 cm to elephantiasis
  2. Chronic severe infections
  3. Brawny edema (fibrotic hard edema)
  4. Pain, decrease in sensation and sweat patterns and other sympathetic nerve functional deficits
  5. Loss of range of motion, loss of strength and increased fatigue
  6. ADL limitations