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How to Cure Lymphedema

Yet another “new” item that seems to be showing up in regards to lymphedema is the claim that you can cure lymphedema.

Use this lotion - take this potion!

In the days of the old West, we always hear the stories of snake oil salesmen traveling through the countryside with their wagons hustling “magical cures” for all ailments.

We are much more sophisticated today, now we use the internet to sell the snake oil.

Please understand that as of this date (Dec. 31, 2011) there is absolutely no “cure” for this condition. Don't be misled by someone who claims to have such cure. Certain techniques that claim to cure lymphedema is exercise and/or microsurgery, lymph node transplant. First, there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim the early intervention and exercise can cure LE. Microsurgery does hold promise and some have had initial good results. However, that is still considered as experimental and there are no studies out showing the long term results (10 years).

Lymph node transplant is also very very early in its use and is considered quite controversial and is very much experimental. Also, because there is mounting evidence that anyone who gets secondary lymphedema was born with a defective lymph system. Yanking out nodes in these individuals to put elsewhere is simply transferring the locale of the potential start of lymphedema. We need honest, clear independent clinical research on outcomes that cover not simply a couple years or even five years, but much further out to include 10 years and 20 years.

Why is there no cure?

The understanding of this, rests in the pathophysiology of lymphedema. Lymphedema is caused by either trauma/damage to the lymphatics and/or being born with a malformed lyhmp system. Those born with it may also be missing lymph nodes throughout their body. This is why I had LE from birth. I am missing critical inguinal lymph nodes as demonstrated by a lymphangiogram I had back in 1966,

The only way to cure lymphedema is to have that lymph system repaired (healed) or to have any missing nodes regrown.

There is no way of doing that, at the moment. There IS promising research going on, but we are still a long way off.

Believe me, if anyone would hope for a cure for this rotten condition it would be me. Mine started from birth some 50 years ago and presently I am having to cope with many complications, some of which includes lymphoma (a lymphatic cancer) and had massive pleural effusions.

Can lymphedema be Treated?


The preferred treatment today is decongestive therapy. The forms of therapy are complete decongestive therapy (CDT) or manual decongestive therapy (MDT), there are variances, but most involve these two type of treatment.

It is a form of massage therapy where the leg is very gently massaged to actually move the fluid out of the leg and into an area where the lymph system still functions normally.

With these massage treatments, swelling is reduced and then the patient is fitted with a pre-measured custom pressure garment to keep the swelling down and/or is taught to use compression wraps to maintain the leg size.

Following this brief article is a complete list of all our treatment and/or proposed treatment methods.

Are there ways to help delay the possible onset of lymphedema?

Again, YES

Below is a list originally put out by the National Lymphedema Network.

Eighteen Steps to Prevention of Lymphedema

1. Absolutely do not ignore any slight increase of swelling in the arm, hand, fingers or chest wall (consult with your doctor immediately).

2. Never allow an injection or a blood drawing in the affected arm(s).

3. Have blood pressure checked in the unaffected arm.

4. Keep the edemic arm, or “at-risk” arm spotlessly clean. Use lotion (Eucerin, Nivea) after bathing. When drying it, be gentle, but thorough. Make sure it is dry in any creases and between the fingers.

5. Avoid vigorous, repetitive movements against resistance with the affected arm (scrubbing, pushing, pulling).

6. Avoid heavy lifting with the affected arm. Never carry heavy handbags or bags with over-the-shoulder straps.

7. Do not wear tight jewelry or elastic bands around affected fingers or arm(s).

8. Avoid extreme temperature changes when bathing, washing dishes, or sunbathing (no 1sauna or hot tub). Keep the arm protected from the sun.

9. Avoid any type of trauma (bruising, cuts, sunburn or other burns, sports injuries, insect bites, cat scratches).

10. Wear gloves while doing housework, gardening or any type of work that could result in even a minor injury.

11. When manicuring your nails, avoid cutting your cuticles (inform you manicurist).

12. Exercise is important, but consult with your therapist. Do not overtire an arm at risk; if it starts to ache, lie down and elevate it. Recommended exercises: walking, swimming, light aerobics, bike riding, and specially designed ballet or yoga. (Do not lift more than 12 lbs.)

13. When traveling by air, patients with lymphedema must wear a compression sleeve. Additional bandages may be required on a long flight.

14. Patients with large breasts should wear light breast prostheses (heavy prostheses may put too much pressure on the lymph nodes above collar bone). Soft pads may have to be worn under the bra strap. Wear a well-fitted bra that is not too tight and with no wire support.

15. Use an electric razor to remove hair from axilla. Maintain electric razor properly replacing heads as needed.

16. Patients who have lymphedema should wear a well-fitted compression sleeve during all waking hours. At least every four to six months see your therapist for follow-up. If the sleeve is too loose, most likely the arm circumference has reduced or the sleeve is worn.

17. Warning: If you notice a rash, blistering, redness, increase of temperature or fever, see your physician immediately. An inflammation or infection in the affected arm could be the beginning of lymphedema or a worsening of lymphedema.

18. Maintain your ideal body weight through a well-balanced, low sodium, high-fiber diet. Avoid smoking and alcoholic beverages. Lymphedema is a high protein edema, but eating too little protein will not reduce the protein element in the lymph fluid; rather this will weaken the connective tissue and worsen the condition. The diet should contain protein that is easily digested, such as chicken and fish.

Does Weight Effect or Cause lymphedema?


Weight and the Prevention of Lymphedema

There is a growing epidemic in the United States, actually it almost might be referred to as a pandemic. That is the skyrocketing incidents of obesity, not only among adults, but also among children.

We are also seeing an increase in reported cases of lymphedema as a secondary condition caused by obesity.

Obesity and especially morbid obesity causes lymphedema by crushing and/or overwhelming the lymphatics.

In an article, “Obesity and cancer: the risks, science, and potential management strategies,” Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, from the Prevention Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, wrote: “The data from our survey suggests that lymphedema is more severe among those with higher body weight and that infections of the skin were much more common among patients with LE who were overweight. In addition, those who were overweight were more likely to have physical limitations that impaired their ability to conduct daily activities.” If you are not overweight, do all you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that you don’t get heavier.

If you are overweight, you must make a concerted effort to reduce your weight. Talk to your therapist and primary care doctor to set up a good regime of exercise and a good diet for you.

For information on healthy dietary ideas and suggestions see The Lymphedema Diet

Treatment of limbs lymphedema].

Dec. 2010

[Article in French] Vaillant L, Müller C, Goussé P.


Université François-Rabelais de Tours, CHRU de Tours, Tours, France.

Abstract The treatment of lymphedema aims to reduce the volume and prevent infectious and joints mobility complications. This treatment rarely cure and is usually symptomatic; thus it should be continued throughout the life. The erysipelas and lymphangitis are common complications of lymphedema. Erysipela is always of streptococcal origin and requires systemic antibiotics. The risk of recurrent erysipelas on lymphedema is high. In case of large swelling associated with significant dermal sclerosis, it may lead to decrease joint mobility and functional impairment. The skin cares, manual lymph drainage, compression therapy with bandages and exercises are the four pillars of the complex decongestive therapy of limb lymphedema.

Compression is the most important treatment. Lymphedema can be improved by only bandages, but a sustained improvement of lymphedema cannot be seen without bandages. The effectiveness of treatment must be evaluated by objective methods, measuring the perimeters of members or volumes. The management of lymphedema includes three phases: attack or initial treatment that aims to reduce volume of the lymphedema and maintenance phase to maintain the result and finally withdrawal phase. In the attack phase, we use complex decongestive therapy, mainly multilayer inelastic bandaging and manual lymphatic drainage (MLD).

In the maintenance phase, we use elastic compression (stockings or sleeves) possibly associated with MLD. At all stages skin care and exercises are used. Adjuvant treatments may be useful (intermittent pneumatic compression, drug treatment). Surgery is rarely used except for genital lymphedema. The therapeutic management of lymphedema is difficult but has a variety of techniques. The complex decongestive therapy is very effective to restore a better quality of life even though it does not provide a cure for lymphedema.


Complimentary Treatments

Complimentary treatment modalities that are being experimented with and used include such therapies as Kinesiology Technique, Reflexology therapy, Endermologie treatments. For information regarding these techniques, please refer to the links below

Index of Lymphedema Treatment Articles


Complications of Lymphedema Debulking Surgery

Choosing a Rehabilitation Provider or Physical Therapist

How to be Safe with Complementary and Alternative Medicine


Low Level Laser

Laser Workshops Information

Naturopathy: A Critical Appraisal

Self Massage Therapy – Self MLD

Elastin Ampules

Flexitouch Device for Arm Lymphedema

Intensive Decongestive Physiotherapy Upper Limb Lymphedema


Why Compression Pumps cause Complications with Lymphedema

Patient self-massage for breast cancer-related lymphedema

Daflon 500 and Secondary Lymphedema

Ball Massage technique

Infrared Therapy for Lymphedema

Craniosacral Therapy

Essential Oils

Selenium, Lymphedema and Cancer – Update

The Lymphoedema Project: Consensus on Lymphoedema Bandaging

The Flexitouch Device - Initial Observations

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Lymphedema

Lymphocyte injection therapy

Coumarin powder/ointment

Complete decongestive therapy lymphedema in breast cancer

Daflon vs Pycnogenol

Homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments

Complete Decongestive Therapy Management of Arm Lymphedema

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Microsurgery for treatment of peripheral lymphedema update

Should primary lymphedema be treated differently?

Lymphatic venous anastomoses

Lymph node transplants

see also: Lymph Node Transplant

Lymph Vessel Transplantation

see also: Lymph Vessel Transplant

Surgical Management of Scrotal Lymphedema Using Local Flaps

see also: Charles Procedure and Scrotal Lymphedema


Unguentum Lymphaticum and lymphedema of lower extremities

Lymphedema People Resources

how_to_cure_lymphedema.txt · Last modified: 2013/01/05 07:32 by Pat O'Connor