Complete Decongestive Therapy for Lymphedema

Lymphedema treatment involves Complete Decongestive Therapy. This treatment requires specialized training and certification. Sara has completed the intensive training and additional certification by the Lymphedema Association of North America.

Lymphedema is a high-protein edema that develops when the body is inefficient in removing water and proteins from certain areas of the body. This inefficiency occurs from either developmental abnormalities or damage to the lymphatic system.

There are two forms of lymphedema: primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is due to aphasia in the lymphatic system. Symptoms can show at birth, puberty, or later in life, making a definitive diagnosis tedious. Secondary lymphedema is due to damage to the lymphatic system. In the United States, the most common cause is cancer treatment. Other causes are chronic venous insufficiency, obesity, infection, surgery, DVT, and trauma, to name a few. Lipedema and phleobolymphostatic edema are also treated at this office.

Components of CDT can also benefit patients with low protein edema. Those conditions might be chronic venous insufficiency or edema due to trauma or surgery, to name a few.


What Are the Components of Complete Decongestive Therapy?

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)

MLD is a skilled hands-on therapy using light pressure to manipulate the lymph capillaries, collectors, and lymphangions to move excess interstitial fluid into the lymphatic system and drain the swollen limb.

Compression Bandaging/Garments

Following MLD, patients are wrapped with short-stretch compression bandages to further support the lymphatic system. Once a limb is decongested, patients are transferred into graduated compression garments to keep the limb from congesting again. These garments are used for the rest of the patient’s life.

Skin Care

Skin care for people with lymphedema is very important. The skin integrity is affected, making patients vulnerable to infections such as cellulitis. Soaps and lotions with a low pH are used for cleansing and moisturizing.


Patients are taught exercises while wearing their compression bandages to take advantage of the high working pressure elicited by the bandages to aid in the flow of lymphatic fluid through the system.


Patient education is involved in all aspects of CDT to teach the patient how to manage their lymphedema for the rest of their life. The focus is on maintaining limb decongestion and limiting the risk of infections.