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Treatment For Secondary Lymphedema

Written by Amy Hall
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Coping with Lymphedema

Treatment for secondary lymphedema consists of Manual Lymph Drainage and Complete Decongestive Therapy, along with the use of compression garments and proper skin and nail care. Certified therapists can also show their patients how to perform remedial exercises that can further help stimulate the flow of lymph fluid and keep the swelling down. The biggest obstacle to success is consistency with treatments, and patients who do not keep regular therapy sessions often have difficulty with increased swelling and mobility.

Secondary lymphedema is caused by either surgery (usually cancer), trauma or injury to the lymphatic system. Post-surgery cancer patients are at an increased risk of developing lymphedema because they have often had some or all of their lymph nodes removed in a certain area of the body where the cancer was. The lymph nodes are responsible for filtering lymph of bacteria and toxins, as well as moving it along to the lymph vessels for further transport throughout the body. When these nodes are removed, lymph can become stagnant, and swelling results.

Gold-Standard Treatment for Secondary Lymphedema

Most health care professionals agree that the gold-standard treatment for secondary lymphedema is Manual Lymph Drainage and Complete Decongestive Therapy. These techniques work together to stimulate the flow of lymph through massage, and keeping the swelling down by using compression bandages and/or garments. The patient must follow the guidelines that the therapist lays out in order to achieve maximum results.

It is imperative that the patient wear the compression garment as directed, which could be for a four to six hours during the day, and throughout the night. Bandages must be removed for bathing, then reapplied as instructed. Meticulous skin and nail care must also be a priority, as lymphedema lowers the body's ability to fight off infection as readily.

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