Lymphoedema requires lifelong self-care to manage it effectively. Here we outline some of the treatments currently available.
Skin Care – The skin changes with lymphoedema therefore needs attention. Keep it clean, moisturised and avoid breaks to the skin.
Moderate Exercises – Exercises are helpful and should be graded to your ability. Swimming and hydrotherapy are recommended because the water applies pressure to the limb like a compression garment.
Weight Management – Excessive weight can place the lymphatics under stress. If weight can be maintained at a healthy level, then the lymphatics will have the potential to function optimally.
Positioning – Gravity can impact on the lymphatic system and therefore it is important to avoid long periods in any position. It is important to sleep as flat as possible in bed. Deep breathing and gentle muscle contractions helps lymph to move.
Psychological Support – As a chronic condition lymphoedema can have an overwhelming impact on a person’s mental health, affecting ability to work and/or personal relationships. It is important to seek support if symptoms are impacting on this aspect of your health.
Social Support – Many people find the support received through being a Member of LAQ an important part of their self-management for chronic lymphoedema. Educational sessions are often a way to implement this beneficial social support.
Complex Lymphatic Therapy (CLT) – This treatment generally lasts around two to four weeks. It consists of a combination of skin care, specific massage, compression bandaging and exercises followed by ongoing compression garments.
Compression Therapy/Garments – Are an important part of managing lymphoedema. They may be used to prevent an increase in swelling or following CLT. Compression garments aim to maintain the size of the limb, in combination with exercise and massage.
Laser Therapy – This form of therapy stimulates the cells and softens the tissues. Some evidence suggests that it may stimulate lymph vessels and help them to work more effectively.
Pneumatic Compression Devices (Pump) – This is a mechanical supplement to self-massage. Pumps can be purchased for in-home use or accessed through lymphoedema services.
Surgery – Surgical options for managing lymphoedema are emerging in Australia. These include liposuction, lymph node transfers and lymphovenous anastomosis (joining a lymphatic vessel to a suitably sized vein). Currently these options are available through limited centres.
Drugs – There are currently no recommended medications available for the treatment of lymphoedema in Australia.
Emerging Technology – There are a variety of other technologies that are being trialled around the world to assist with the management of lymphoedema. The results can vary, but they offer much hope for the future.