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L-W-O Community

For those living with Primary, Secondary & Paediatric Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

Is there a cure for Lymphoedema

Very short answer NO.  This is due to the fact that glands and lymph vessels can't be replaced or repaired after your cancer treatment or in the case of primary lymphoedema a faulty genetic system. Therefore those of us living with lymphoedema will have a lifetime of self-care and management to reduce swelling and keep up maintenance.  I hope cancer patients are referred to a lymphoedema clinic where they will receive Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and be taught Simple Lymphatic Drainage (SLD) in addition to being prescribed compression garments.



Treatment for lymphoedema aims to reduce swelling, relieve discomfort and prevent more build-up of fluid. 

Following treatment, the limb or area should become less swollen, easier to move and feel more comfortable. 

Sometimes it may take several weeks or months before you notice any real improvement. 

Skin-care to keep the skin and tissues in good condition and to prevent/reduce the risk of infection.

  • External Support/Compression in the form of compression garments to help prevent the swelling from building up in the limb.
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) - specialised form of massage carried out by a trained therapist to move the skin in specific directions based on the underlying anatomy and physiology of the lymphatic system.
  • Simple Lymphatic Drainage (SLD) - a gentle massage technique that is based on the principles of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD).  It involves the use of simple hand movements to try and move the swelling out of the affected area.  Ask you MLD therapist to show you how to do this.
  • Multi-Layer Lymphoedema Bandaging (MLLB) is a multi-layer system of bandages provides a rigid casing for the muscles to work this helps to improve the shape of the arm and reduce severe swelling.
  • Intermittent Sequential Pneumatic Compression Therapy.  A unique patented inflation and deflation sequence, designed according to the principles of MLD, which aims to clear the proximal lymphatics to assist lymph flow of the affected limb.
  • Kinesio tape may be used as an adjunct to treatment.  This is a special sports injury tape which is used over an area of oedema to enhance fluid drainage.  If this is part of your care plan you will be shown how to apply the tape at home.

Photograph of L-W-O's member Jam Bradley's leg using Kinesio tape.

  • A programme of exercise and movement to try and maximise lymph drainage without over exertion.
  • For people with a more severe swelling, additional treatments may be recommended within a more intensive treatment programme called Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT).  This intensive treatment may last for a period of 2 - 4 weeks and combines a package of treatments.  These may include some of the above, plus one or more of the following.

For more details on how to look after your skin, go to our skin-care page

Self Management -v- Self Care

On L-W-O we encourage our members to become their own advocates or "expert patient" although the latter will require a degree of diplomacy.  The more you learn on how to self-manage your condition the easier it will become to live with lymphoedema.  Self-management however, can be daunting and I prefer to think of it as self-care.  It starts with you learning to understand your condition and, on this page, I will explain in simple terms as much as I can about the lymphatic system, but I ask the reader to bear in mind I am not a medical person but someone who lives with secondary lymphoedema.

Learning how to manage lymphoedema or taking care of yourself is a major part of treatment.  At first it may seem overwhelming and feel unfair they you have all this to deal with.  It is normal to have these difficult feelings from time to time.  Your lymphoedema specialist will explain, and show you, what you can do to help yourself.  Gradually you'll find that you can develop a routine that builds lymphoedema self-care into your everyday activities.  Family and friends often want to help and there are many practical things they can do, such as heavy lifting or carrying, helping you with your compression garment, or massage.

Self-care of lymphoedema is so important and I cannot emphasise enough how you must learn to help yourself. 

Self Drainage

Here is self drainage video found on You Tube


First published in September 2013 as part of our Home Page

Republished independently 24/07/2019

Last updated 25/03/2021