Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from lymphedema. For those with this condition, lymph fluid doesn’t flow properly through their bodies, which can cause the fluid to build up in certain areas—typically the arms and legs—and cause swelling and pain. Those who have undergone cancer treatment in the past are especially susceptible to this condition, particularly breast cancer survivors. Failure to manage this condition can not only increase pain and swelling, but may also lead to slower wound healing, increased risk of infection, and stiff and sore joints. So, if you have lymphedema, it’s essential that you manage it properly. Keep reading to get some important tips on how to effectively manage your lymphedema.
Take Care of Your Skin
Lymphedema can often dry out and even thicken your skin, so it’s incredibly important to moisturize and care for your skin to prevent cracking. Cracked skin provides an entryway for infection and, as mentioned above, lymphedema patients are more prone to infections and slow healing. You should use ointments like Vaseline or Aquaphor on especially dry parts of your skin, as well as creams and lotions every day; you should be especially vigilant about applying your moisturizers at night, when they’ll have more time to work. Ask your dermatologist or lymphedema therapist for specific recommendations for you.
Treat Cuts with Care
For many people, a small cut in the skin is nothing to worry about; but, again, the story is different for lymphedema patients. You should take extra care to treat those little cuts to avoid infection and promote faster healing. All cuts should be treated with antibiotic cream and covered with a bandage. If you suspect an infection, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Wear Gloves When Gardening or Cooking
In addition to treating those little cuts, it’s a good idea to try to prevent them to begin with. Wear gloves when gardening, cooking, or participating in activities that may result in any kind of skin damage. Those gloves can protect your hands from scratches from branches and bushes, and cuts from knives while cooking. As a side note, opt for an electric shaver instead of razor blades while shaving, as they’re less likely to cause small nicks in your skin.
Exercise at the Right Level
Exercise is incredibly important for everyone’s health, and can help lymphedema patients to reduce swelling in their limbs by promoting the draining of excess fluid. However, you shouldn’t overexert yourself, as this can leave you fatigued and actually aggravate your lymphedema. Instead, focus on light exercise, including gentle contractions of the muscles in whatever limbs are most affected by your lymphedema. Aim for daily, light exercise instead of occasional, intense exercises throughout the week.
Avoid Crossing Your Legs while Sitting
Many people naturally cross their legs while sitting. However, if you have lymphedema, you should make a conscious effort to avoid this, as crossing your legs while seated will further block the flow of fluids through the body. Additionally, you should adjust your sitting position at least once every 30 minutes.
Use Pumps and Compression Garments
Clothing and tools that compress the impacted limb can help promote the flow of lymphatic fluid so that it doesn’t pool in your extremities. Two excellent tools for doing this are lymphedema pumps and compression garments; because the arms are the most likely limbs to be impacted by lymphedema, compression sleeves are the most common garment used for treating the condition.
Compression garments apply gentle pressure to the limb throughout the day to prevent pooling. Pumps are connected to a motor that inflates and deflates the connected sleeve in a timed cycle. This repeated squeezing motion can help push fluid through your lymphatic system.
Be sure to speak to a lymphedema specialist before purchasing either compression garments or a lymphedema pump. It’s important that you purchase the right device, and are trained on how to use it properly. Additionally, you need to purchase compression garments that apply the right amount of pressure. Too much pressure can damage the lymph vessels and lead to further complications related to your lymphedema.
Find the Right Lymphedema Treatment Products
After you speak to your doctor about which devices and garments are right for you, Elixair Medical can help you to select and purchase the best treatment products. We carry a variety of lymphedema pumps and sleeves, so we can ensure that you’re treating your lymphedema properly. If you have questions regarding our products or purchasing them through your medical insurance, contact Elixair Medical today.