Managing your lymphedema is a life time, on going process in an effort to prevent infections and help maintain, reduce the size of or to your lymphedema from getting worse. Managing and treating your lymphedema go hand in hand, but they also are separate topics that can be used individually depending on what stage your lymphedema is in.
Managing lymphedema goes beyond treatment. While treatment includes much of what a patient with lymphedema will do to manage their condition, there are a number of daily steps in order to manage your lymphedema.
Bacteria can enter the body through a cut, scratch, insect bite, or other skin injury. Fluid that is trapped in body tissues by lymphedema makes it easy for bacteria to grow and cause infection. Look for signs of infection, such as redness, pain, swelling, heat, fever, or red streaks below the surface of the skin. Call your doctor right away if any of these signs appear.
It is important that beyond wearing your garments or wraps that you take good care of your skin on the affected limb. This can be accomplished through the following:
- Try to avoid breaks in the skin that could lead to infection.
- Treat small cuts or breaks in the skin with an antibacterial ointment.
- Keep your affected limb moisturized. This helps keep the skin supple and prevents it from getting dry and cracked. Healthy skin can help your body avoid infection.
- Take luke warm showers, avoiding hot water.
- If you have cuts or get a burn wash the area well with soap and water using antibacterial cream or ointment.
- Avoid long exposure to direct sunlight and wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
- Avoid getting bug bites by wearing repellent
- Carefully cut the cuticles and nails of the affected limb
- If shaving the affected limb use a good quality electric shaver, avoid using bladed shavers.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid blocking the flow of fluids through the body.
- Do not cross legs while sitting.
- Change sitting position at least every 30 minutes.
- Do no wear tight fitting jewelery, avoid tight bands or elastic.
- Avoid allowing blood to pool in the affected limb
- When possible raise the afected limb higher than the heart during periods of resting. This can be accomplished with wedge pillows or even inversion chairs
- Avoid applying any type of heat to the affected limb
- Do not swing the limb quickly in circles or let the limb hang down for long periods of time.
- Exercise the limb carefully when possible. Speak with your doctor or therapist for ideas and programs to help exercise the limb and reduce your overall weight which can greatly impact your lymphedema.