How is genital lymphedema treated?
The most promising method of treatment is known as “combined therapy” or “complex decongestive therapy.” This kind of therapy takes place with the following steps:
- Complete cleaning and sanitizing of the skin
- Manual lymph drainage: This is a type of massage performed by a lymphedema therapist (not a regular massage therapist). It involves light rubbing, tapping, and stroking of the swollen area. The aim is to move lymph out of the swollen area into an area that has working lymph vessels. Patients can be taught to perform this type of massage themselves. However, the massage should not be performed in cases of broken skin, bruising, blood clots, or skin recently exposed to radiation therapy.
- Use of special compression bandages and pumps that inflate and deflate on a timed cycle, helping pump lymph through vessels and preventing fluid buildup.
- Physical exercise as prescribed by a certified lymphedema therapist.
Other possible treatment options include the use of antibiotics to prevent infections. In cases in which genital lymphedema exists along with other conditions such as lymphatic cysts or broken lymph vessels, a number of surgical methods are available. Surgery may also be needed in advanced cases or when no relief is found from complex decongestive therapy.
What can be expected after treatment for genital lymphedema?
At the start of complex decongestive therapy, patients may receive daily treatments for as long as six weeks. Afterward, they can assume responsibility for performing the therapy for themselves, with follow-up visits to the doctor as recommended.