Healthy Habits for Patients at Risk for Lymphedema

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Healthy Habits for Patients at Risk for Lymphedema

Healthy Lifestyle: A healthy diet and exercise are important for overall good health.

  • Maintain optimal weight through a healthy diet and exercise to significantly lower risk of lymphedema.
  • Gradually build up the duration and intensity of any activity or exercise. Review the Exercise Position Paper.*
  • Take frequent rest periods during activity to allow for recovery.
  • Monitor the at-risk area during and after activity for change in size, shape, tissue, texture, soreness, heaviness, or firmness. 

Skin Care: Make sure that your skin is in good condition.  

  • Keep your at-risk body part clean and dry.
  • Apply moisturizer daily to prevent chapping/chafing of skin.
  • Pay attention to nail care and do not cut cuticles.
  • Protect exposed skin with sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Use care with razors to avoid nicks and skin irritation.

Medical Check-ups: Find a certified lymphedema therapist (CLT).* 

  • Review your individual situation, get screened for lymphedema, and discuss risk factors with your CLT.
  • Ask your CLT or healthcare professional if compression garments for air travel and strenuous activity are appropriate for you.
  • If a compression garment is recommended, make sure it is properly fitted and you understand the wear, care, and replacement guidelines.
  • Set a follow-up schedule based on your needs with your CLT.
  • Report any changes in your at-risk body part to your CLT.

Infection Education: Know the signs of infection and what to do if you suspect you have one. 

  • Signs of infection: rash, itching, redness, pain, increased skin temperature, increased swelling, fever, or flu-like symptoms.
  • If any of these symptoms occur, contact your healtcare professional immediately for early treatment of possible infection.
  • If a scratch or puncture to your skin occurs, wash it with soap and water, apply topical antibiotics, and observe for signs of infection.
  • Keep a small first aid kit with you when traveling.

TRY TO AVOID POSSIBLE TRIGGERS

Injury or Trauma:

  • Wear gloves while doing activities that may cause skin injury (eg, washing dishes, gardening, using chemicals like detergent).
  • Try to avoid punctures (eg, injections and blood draws).

Limb Constriction:

  • Wear loose jewelry and clothing.
  • Avoid carrying a heavy bag or purse over the at-risk limb.
  • Try to avoid blood pressure cuffs on the at-risk limb.

Extreme Temperatures:

  • Avoid exposure to extreme cold, which can cause rebound swelling or chapping of skin.
  • Avoid prolonged (> 15 min.) exposure to heat, particularly hot tubs and saunas.

Prolonged Inactivity:

At-risk for leg lymphedema?

  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting by moving and changing position throughout the day.
  • Wear properly, fitted footwear and hosiery.

Please Note: These guidelines are meant to help reduce your risk of developing lymphedema and are NOT prevention guidelines. Because there is little research about risk reduction, many of these use a common-sense approach based on the body’s anatomy and knowledge gained from decades of clinical experience by experts in the field. Risk reduction should always be individualized by a certified lymphedema therapist and healthcare professional. 

For a full list of the NLN’s risk reduction practices, please see our website: www.lymphnet.org/riskreduction

*To review the NLN’s other position papers and find a CLT in your area