Many people that I meet are puzzled by lymphadema. They usually ask me right away if a doctor can prescribe something that will remove the fluid. In my head I'm usually wanting to scream, "WOW what a mind blowing thought! Do you honestly not think I've already thought of THAT?!" but because I was raised with manners, I control myself and explain that the fluid that builds up in lymphedema isn't just "water" and can't be treated with diuretics. It's important to understand this because if you suffer with lymphedema you will probably have to explain this to many people in your life.
A really wonderful website called "Lymphedema People" has this very well written information about diuretics. Please visit this site for lots of wonderful information and support.
To understand why these agents are not recommended for the treatment of lymphedema we must first start with a basic definition of edema and lymphedema.
Edema: Abnormal pooling or build up of fluid in tissues. Generally caused by underlying medical conditions such as hypertension, varicose veins, thrombophlebitis, congestive heart failure, kidney failure steroid therapy, inflammatory reactions, or injury or trauma.
Diuretics are used to assist in the correction of the base problem causing the edema.
Lymphedema: A disorder in which “lymph” collects usually in a limb as a result of a congenital, hereditary malformation of the lymphatic system, or is a result secondary conditions such as node removal for biopsies, damage to the lymphatics from radiation, injury or trauma or by parasitic infection. Diuretics cannot help the underlying condition of lymphedema.
Why not use diuretics for lymphedema?
Perhaps the single most important consideration is in the composition of the lymph fluid caused by lymphedema. The fluid is a protein-rich substance that provides a breeding and nourishment center for bacteria. This has to be removed to lesson the risks of cellulitis and lymphangitis.
This fluid also has to be removed so as to prevent the formation and progression of fibrosis as lymphedema advances through the various stages.
Diuretics remove none of this waste fluid."
Lymphedema People founder Pat O'Connor also gives this advice to people whose doctors may recommend diuretics to treat lymphadema,
"Please, please don't get a diuretic to treat the lymphedema. Diuretics will in the long run make the lymphedema worse. They remove the water, but are unable to remove the heavier waste proteins in that fluid. That will cause tissue hardening, more swelling and even more susceptibility to infections.
Tell the doctor (don't ask - tell) that you want a referral to a Certified Lymhpedema Therapist."