How Do You Treat Lymphedema In Legs?

Although the lymphedema is not completely curable but there are certain treatments through which the symptoms can be managed, and the progression of the disease can be kept under control. The treatment may depend upon the severity of the disease and the stage at which the condition exists.

How Do You Treat Lymphedema In Legs?

Although the lymphedema in legs once developed cannot be cured, but it is important to manage the symptoms in order to avoid any further tissue damages and complications. The lymphedema is divided in to 4 stages and the target of the therapy is to control the condition and stop its progression to next stage. Further, the treatment also depends upon the cause of the condition i.e. whether the condition is primary or secondary. The organ volume of the patient is examined in order to determine the extent of the disease by examining the legs, arms, and abdomen and chest wall.

Following are the treatment strategies adopted by the medical professionals on the basis of severity of the disease:

Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT) To Treat Lymphedema In Legs

Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy or DLT is the most recommended management strategy for lymphedema as it comprises the major steps which help in easing the symptoms. The initial phase of the DLT is the reduction phase in which the fluid is reduced and moved out from the affected part. The next phase is a maintenance phase that helps in maintaining the amount of fluid. Following are the components of DLT-

Compression– The goal for using the compression on the legs is to remove the excess fluid. The compression is done with the help of compression bandages that helps in removing the fluid through muscular movements. The stockings and sleeves can also be used for this purpose that imparts the pressure on the fluid.

Exercises– Exercises also plays a major role in relieving the symptoms of lymphedema in legs as they have an effect on the muscles. Deep breathing is an effective exercise that helps in increasing the lymph flow. Further, the elevation of the legs also helps in flowing of lymph fluid. The other exercises include stretching and strengthening exercises. Aerobics also have an advantage in promoting lymph flow. The exercises which involve the muscular system such as cycling or swimming can also be advised.

Massage– Massage, which is created especially for this condition is known as manual lymphatic drainage. It is done by a trained person and especially helpful when the lymphedema occurs in legs. When massage combined with the compression, the results are good. The number of sessions of massage depends upon the amount of fluid collected in the underlying tissue.

Skin Care– The skin care is an important strategy to avoid any infection as the lymph collected is considered as favorable environment for bacterial growth. The infection may lead to complications and may sometimes results in fatal consequences.

Surgery To Treat Lymphedema In Legs

When the DLT does not provide the adequate results and failed to improve the symptoms, the physician may recommend the surgery for lymphedema in legs. The type of surgery depends upon the goal that is to be achieved. The surgery may be of the following types:

  1. Surgery which is done to connect the lymph vessels to the nearby blood circulatory system.
  2. Liposuction surgery which is done to remove excess fat from the underlying tissue.
  3. Surgery, which is done to remove the damaged, hardened skin tissue to reduce the risk of cellulitis.

Adjuvant Therapy for Treating Lymphedema In Legs

Apart from managing the lymph fluid, the therapy also targets the management of other symptoms such as pain and numbness in legs. For this, analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs are administered. To treat the infection, the antibiotics are prescribed.


The most recommended strategy is Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy. This therapy has dual stages. The initial stage is reduction stage while the next stage is the maintenance stage. If the symptoms are not managed with Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy, the leg surgery is the next option. Further, the treatment is also supported by adjuvant therapy such as the analgesics and antibiotics.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 31, 2018

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