Lymphedema is a chronic and progressive condition due to an imbalance between lymphatic filtration and transport capacity. A relative overload of fluid is caused by lymphatic impairment (afterload impairment); an absolute overload is caused by increased filtration (preload raised). Lymphedema can result in considerable disability and loss of quality of life. The Dutch Society of Dermatology organized a task force to create guidelines using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health. As lymphedema is a chronic condition, a new approach was chosen according to the chronic care model. In the development of the guidelines, the following topics of lymphedema care were proposed: (1) lymphedema detection; (2) clinimetric instruments; and (3) rational treatment modalities. A systematic review of the literature published up to June 2013 was conducted. Statements were based on scientific evidence and experience. The guidelines propose recommendations based on an interdisciplinary approach to lymphedema using a continuum of care from prevention to initial treatment phase, maintenance phase, and follow-up. An integrated treatment program can be conservative or surgical. A therapeutic program depends on stage and origin of lymphedema; International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health-based limitations; needs of the patient; ability to perform self-management; and ability to reduce patient-related risk factors, such as overweight and lack of exercise.
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