How is lymphedema diagnosed?

The physician will conduct an examination and if a limb, such as an arm or leg is swollen, the physician will measure it to compare with the opposite arm or leg. Diagnostic procedures, such as an X-ray with contrast, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be performed to determine the source of the swelling. 

What non-surgical treatments are there for lymphedema?

While there is no cure for lymphedema, there are two forms of treatment for lymphedema – non-surgical and surgical.

Non-surgical treatment of lymphedema includes:

  • Gentle exercises to move the swollen arm or leg in order to help drain the lymphatic fluid, reducing the swelling
  • Wearing a compression sleeve or stocking to help drain the lymphatic tissue
  • Massage therapy to manually drain the lymphatic tissue from the swollen area of the body
  • Using an inflatable  pneumatic pump to drain the tissue
  • Losing weight
  • Physical therapy

What surgical treatments are there for lymphedema?

Surgical procedures can treat lymphedema safely for most patients when it is combined with integrated therapy for lymphedema.

  • Vascularized lymph node transfer is a procedure to release the scar tissue that is blocking the release of lymphatic fluid in the body. It includes a transfer of a soft tissue flap, containing components of the lymph system, from the patient to the area affected with lymphedema.

  • Lymphaticovenous anastomosis is a procedure to connect the existing lymphatic vessels to tiny veins nearby so that the lymphatic fluid can drain directly into the veins.

  • Lymphaticolymphatic bypass connects functioning lymphatic vessels, from a donor, directly to the lymphatic vessels of the area affected. 

Because of the progressive nature of lymphedema, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. It tends to worsen without treatment and can significantly disable and disfigure patients.