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Treating Lymphedema

Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is the gold standard for treating lymphedema and consists of a decongestion phase, followed by a maintenance phase. There are several parts to both phases, and all are essential to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Treating Lymphedema

Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT)

Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) aims to reduce your swelling, improve the condition of your skin and increase your mobility. The two phases of Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) are:

Phase I - Decongestion

The first step of CDT is to reduce the swelling as much as possible and improve your limb shape and skin condition. This intensive treatment phase usually lasts for about 2 - 4 weeks. When you only have mild or moderate lymphedema, Phase I may not be necessary. In this case, you can go straight into Phase II.

The elements of Phase I are


Phase II – Maintenance

Phase II aims to maintain and maximize the achievements of Phase I, and to gain long-term control of your lymphedema. It is important to continue the treatment immediately after the completion of Phase I. Any delays can result in more swelling again. Depending on the course of your disease, it can also be necessary to go back to Phase I again. Self-management is an integral part of Phase II.

Self-management means both a deep understanding of your disease and ways to manage your lymphedema with your carers and to contribute on your own. Your therapy`s success relies on self-management by yourself and your carers, together with education, and the right medical and psychological support.

The elements of Phase II are

CDT including self-management ensures successful management of your disease in the long-term. It is also important that you are well-informed about your disease and get the right support.

Learn more about how the lymphatic system works

What you should consider as well

Besides CDT and its different elements, there are a few other things that can be part of lymphedema treatment. Wound healing can be impaired with lymphedema, and proper skin care may be required. In case of failed conservative (non-surgical) therapy, or with severe symptoms, there are few surgical options that can be discussed with a surgeon. Depending on your location, not all treatment elements may be covered by your health insurance. Find out more about reimbursement here.

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