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Treating Lymphoedema

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

Treating Lymphoedema

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 have mild or moderate lymphoedema, 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 maximise the achievements of Phase I, and to gain long-term control of your lymphoedema. It is important to continue the treatment immediately after the completion of Phase I. Any delays can result in further swelling. Depending on the course of your condition, you may need to go back to Phase I. Self-management is an integral part of Phase II.

Self-management involves you having a deep understanding of your condition and adopting ways to manage your lymphoedema. Your therapy`s success relies on your self-management, and any carer support, together with education, medical and psychological support.

The elements of Phase II are

CDT including self-management ensures successful management of your condition in the long-term. It is also important that you are well-informed about your condition 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 lymphoedema treatment. Wound healing can be difficult when you have lymphoedema, and proper daily skin care is 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. 

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