Question: I have lymphedema in my left arm. Besides physical therapy (massage) is there anything else I can do or medications I can try?
Dr. Hibberd's answer:
There is no cure for lymphedema, but it can be controlled. Controlling lymphedema involves care of your affected limb, and treatment focuses on reducing the swelling and controlling the pain. Proper massaging must include manual lymph drainage may encourage the flow of lymph fluid out of your arm or leg. Your healthcare provider must have advised you to avoid massage if you have a skin infection, active cancer, blood clots, or congestive heart failure. Also avoid massage on areas of your body that have received radiation therapy.
Here are some other things that you can try: Light exercises that require you to move your affected arm or leg may encourage movement of the lymph fluid out of your limb, or even wrapping a bandage around your entire limb can encourage lymph fluid to flow back out of your affected limb and toward the trunk of your body. When bandaging your arm or leg, start by making the bandage tightest around your fingers and toes. Wrap the bandage more loosely as you move up your arm or leg. Pneumatic compression is a gadget in which you will wear a sleeve over your affected arm that is connected to a pump that intermittently inflates the sleeve, putting pressure on your limb. The inflated sleeve gently moves lymph fluid away from your fingers or toes, reducing the swelling in your arm. All these require specialized techniques must be taught to you first by a physical or lymphedema therapist so that you are doing the right thing.
Compression garments that are long sleeves or stockings made to compress your arm or leg to encourage the flow of the lymph fluid out of your affected limb are also available. Once you have reduced swelling in your arm or leg through other measures, your doctor may suggest you wear compression garments to prevent your limb from swelling in the future. Obtain a correct fit for your compression garment, you might require one specially made to suit your limb — ask your doctor where you can buy compression garments in your area.