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Living With Lymphedema


  • Avoid injury or over exertion to the affected area.
  • Wear the compression garments and/or bandages as prescribed by your therapist.
  • Ensure your medical charts contain details of treatment
  • Consider wearing a lymphedema alert bracelet available from the National Lymphedema Network.
  • Follow the guide below on skin care, clothing, nutrition, temperatures, compression garments:

Skin Care:

  • Keep skin protected by using a scent free and low pH moisturizing lotion, and wash with a mild pH balanced soap. When bathing, use warm, not hot water.
  • Avoid irritation or allergy-causing cosmetics, deodorants, perfumes and detergents.
  • Regularly inspect your hands, feet and limbs for any skin changes. Broken skin provides an invitation for bacterial infection. Try not to let the affected area suffer from damage such as scratches, cuts, or insect bites.
  • Regularly use sunscreen and insect repellant.
  • Use gloves when cooking, cleaning, washing dishes or working outdoors.
  • Avoid blood pressure checks, IV's, injections and blood draws on the affected limb.
  • Use an electric razor when shaving.
  • When trimming your nails, avoid cutting into the cuticles.

Clothing:

  • Avoid tight or restrictive clothing that could impair circulation. All your clothes should fit comfortably and should not pinch.
  • Low heeled shoes are recommended.
  • Do not wear jewelry that is tight.
  • Avoid carrying heavy personal items such as purses, luggage or shoulder bags.

Nutrition:

  • Maintain a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grain and protein.
  • Avoid fatty foods, rich deserts, candies, salt and alcohol. Increased weight can complicate lymphedema.

Extremes of Temperature

  • Avoid exposure to extreme cold, which can be associated with rebound swelling, or chapping of skin, and avoid extreme temperatures (> 90° F). Also avoid sun bathing, tanning beds, saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs.

  • Avoid immersing limb in water temperatures above 102° F

Additional practices specific to lower extremity lymphedema

  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting.

  • When possible, avoid crossing legs.

  • Wear proper, well-fitting footwear.

Compression Garments

  • Should be well fitting.

  • Support the at risk limb with a compression bandages or garment for strenuous activity (i.e. exercising, prolonged standing, running).

  • Wear a your compression garment for air travel and ensure you read and understand the information provided here.

Chesapeake Lymphedema Center © 2013