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How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound


Wound Information

Everyone of us will from time to time get wounds on our lymphedema limbs. If your a clutz like me, you will get them from accidents.

They also may be caused by insects bites, such as ants or mosquitos.

More often however, there will be times when our skin just pops open and starts draining. When this happens, you must take care of the wound immediately. The fluid, referred to as lymphorrhea, that seeps out will very quickly cause surrounding skin tissue to deteriorate and in no time that tiny wound can become a very serious problem.

Untreated wounds also leave a wide open entry foci for bacteria.

The resulting infections dramatically increase the severity of the lymphedema, can result in sepsis, gangrene, amputation or death.


What is a Wound?

A wound is defined as any physical injury involving a break in the skin. For none lymphedema people generally wounds are caused by an act or accidently rather than a disease. These involve cutting yourself with a kitchen knife, stumbles and trips, falling, running into things, puncture wounds etc.

Lymphedema people however, experience wounds that are directly related to their medical condition. These are the weeping spots, the ulcerations, those areas where our skin just pops open. These will need to be treated differently than regular accident wounds.


Lymphedema Emergancy Wound Care Kit

Below is a supply list of basic first aid supplies I always keep on hand.

Tube of baby diaper rash creme or ointment, should have zinc
Tube of triple antibiotic ointment
Bottle of alcohol
Bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide
Roll of sterile gauze
Roll of paper nonallergan tape
Compression wrap that is only used to wound care
Sterile 3x3 (individually wrapped) gauze
Sterile 4x4 (individually wrapped) gauze

List of supplies never to use

Never use regular surgical tape on a lymphodemous leg
Never use regular bandaides because of the tape
Never use plastic tape of any kind
(Because of skin condition involved with lymphedema these would present further problems by damaging the skin)


Treatment of Superficial Wounds on a Lymphodemous Limb

I learned a wonderful technique from a wound clinic several years ago. This is excellent for superficial wounds.

I use a very simply, but effective ointment. Desitin with zinc,
thats right baby diaper ointment.

Cover the wound with ointment and place several pieces of square gauze over it. Wrap the affected part of the limb with rolled gauze and then wrap around that with an elastic bandage. Wrap firm but not over tight, using a criss cross method (figure eight).

NOTE: This is for superficial wounds only. If the wound does not clear up within a few days, consult your doctor. You must also see your doctor immediately if it is a large wound or injury or if there begins to be inflammation or infection.

Sometimes, you may even need to go to a Wound Clinic. I have found them to be wonderful and very helpful.


Contraindications in wound healing

With the lymphedema patient, wound care is more difficult and presents a greater challange that with a normal lymph flow limb.

Included in these contraindications are:

- very caustic and destructive fluid weeping from the wound. The fluid causes further destruction of the skin and is a major impediment to healing.

Infection - always a threat to lymphedema patients. Invasive bacteria can lead to serious infections, cellulitis, lymphangitis, erysipelas and even sepsis and gangrene.

Localized Immunodificiency - The affected limb is simply not able to fight the infections that may be present. Antibiotic therapy is necessary.

Tissue quality and fibrosis - Fibrotic tissue simply does not heal as normal tissue. Wound treatment may require extended therapy.

Impaired vascular flow - In late stage lymphedema, the blood flow may be impaired, preventing nutrients and needed oxygenation to the wound.

Swelling - Compression bandages are required to prevent further swelling of the limb. Swelling not only "pulls" apart tissue that is attempting to heal, but causes further drainage of lymphorrhea.


Wound complications

This list of wound complications is actually very simple:

1. Infections, cellulitis, lymphangitis, erysipelas
2. Systemic infections, septicemea
3. Necrosis and gangrene
4. Amputation
5. Death

If you have any type of wound, immediate care is required.


Wound Classification

To understand wounds and how they might be treated, it is necessary to understand the various stages of classifications of wounds.

Class One:

Simple clean wound in the epidermal layer of the skin. In this stage there is no infection or inflammation. The wound is not invasive or traumatic and no other body systems are either afected or involved.

Lymphedema patients may easily with the correct techniques treat these wounds. However, if any sign of inflammation or infection, I strongly urge intervention by a medical professional.

Class Two:

The wound is still "clean." Beginnings of inflammation or infection may be evident. It is critical that lymphedema patients consult
and be supervised by a medical doctor. At this stage antibiotic therapy should be implemented.

At this stage the wound is contained in the epidermis or very slightly in the endodermis or dermis layer of the skin.

Treatment by primary care physician may be all that is required.
However with lymphedema, long standing wounds, even at this stage may call for treatment at a wound clinic.

Class Three:

This is a serious stage that generally will involve not only the epidermis, endodermis but the subcutaneous tissue as well. Wounds at this stage are generally caused by a serious or traumatic injury. Immediate care is critical to prevent further complications or infections.

At this stage it also may become important for referral to a wound treatment clinic.

Antibiotic treatment or therapy is mandatory.

Class Four:

In this class which involves deep long standing wounds, there is generally involvement of extensive infection and contamination. Wounds may be caused by extensive trauma or injury. Sepsis or septicemia is a real danger. Wound in this class may require extensive debridement and/or skin grafts for proper healing.


Call your family doctor if any of the following things occur

Excellant article:

Cuts, Scrapes and Stitches: Caring for Wounds


Wound Classification


Open Wound Classification


Classification of Operative Wounds


Lymphedema Wounds Index of Articles

Hyperbaric Wound Treatment


Lymphedema Wound Treatment

Wound Information

Lymphedema Wound Links for Information


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Lymphedema Glossary


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Children with Lymphedema

The time has come for families, parents, caregivers to have a support group of their own. Support group for parents, families and caregivers of chilren with lymphedema. Sharing information on coping, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Sponsored by Lymphedema People.



Lipedema Lipodema Lipoedema

No matter how you spell it, this is another very little understood and totally frustrating conditions out there. This will be a support group for those suffering with lipedema/lipodema. A place for information, sharing experiences, exploring treatment options and coping.

Come join, be a part of the family!




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Support group for parents, patients, children who suffer from all forms of lymphangiectasia. This condition is caused by dilation of the lymphatics. It can affect the intestinal tract, lungs and other critical body areas.



Lymphatic Disorders Support Group @ Yahoo Groups

While we have a number of support groups for lymphedema... there is nothing out there for other lymphatic disorders. Because we have one of the most comprehensive information sites on all lymphatic disorders, I thought perhaps, it is time that one be offered.


Information and support for rare and unusual disorders affecting the lymph system. Includes lymphangiomas, lymphatic malformations, telangiectasia, hennekam's syndrome, distichiasis, Figueroa
syndrome, ptosis syndrome, plus many more. Extensive database of information available through sister site Lymphedema People.




Lymphedema People New Wiki Pages

Have you seen our new “Wiki” pages yet?  Listed below are just a sample of the more than 140 pages now listed in our Wiki section. We are also working on hundred more.  Come and take a stroll! 

Lymphedema Glossary 


Arm Lymphedema 

Leg Lymphedema 

Acute Lymphedema 

The Lymphedema Diet 

Exercises for Lymphedema 

Diuretics are not for Lymphedema 

Lymphedema People Online Support Groups 



Lymphedema and Pain Management 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) 

Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound 

Fungal Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

Lymphedema in Children 


Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Extraperitoneal para-aortic lymph node dissection (EPLND) 

Axillary node biopsy

Sentinel Node Biopsy

 Small Needle Biopsy - Fine Needle Aspiration 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Lymphedema Gene FOXC2

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 Lymphedema and Pregnancy

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Page Updated: Nov. 29, 2011