User Tools

Site Tools



how_to_prevent_lymphedema

How To Prevent Lymphedema

Can I Prevent Lymphedema?

It seems to be quite “fashionable” lately for website to put out pages on “How to Prevent Lymphedema.” As a lymphedema patient of almost 60 years, I find it somewhat dishonest (to say the least) for anyone to be claiming a way of doing this. It simply is not true. There is absolutely no scientific or medical evidence to support that claim and it gives false hopes to people who are desperate for some type of hope and help.

You can not absolutely prevent lymphedema if your lymphatic system has been damaged or compromised and you are at risk. The only way to “prevent” lymphedema is to have the lymph systemm regrown or repaired where it has been damaged. But there are certain steps you can take that can that can lessen your chances of getting it or will help lessen the severity of it should it happen.

While it is not possible to prevent lymphedema, you can and should take steps to lesson the possibility and/or to lessen its impact.

Pat

My Life with Lymphedema and Lymphoma

Dec. 30, 2011

Risk Factors for Lymphedema

Who is at risk for lymphedema? Anyone who has one or more of the following factors can acquire lymphedema.

  • Deep invasive wounds that might tear, cut or damage the lymphatics
  • Radiation treatments, especially ones that are focused in areas that might contain “clusters” of lymph nodes
  • Serious burns, even intense sunburn
  • Infection of the microscopic parasite filarial larvae, though this is more common in tropical countries
  • Trauma injuries such as those experienced in an automobile accident that severly injures the leg and the lymph system.
  • For primary lymphedema any person who has a family history of unknown swelling of a limb

Eighteen Steps to Prevention of Lymphedema

1. Absolutely do not ignore any slight increase of swelling in the arm, hand, fingers or chest wall (consult with your doctor immediately).

2. Never allow an injection or a blood drawing in the affected arm(s).

3. Have blood pressure checked in the unaffected arm.

4. Keep the edemic arm, or “at-risk” arm spotlessly clean. Use lotion (Eucerin, Nivea) after bathing. When drying it, be gentle, but thorough. Make sure it is dry in any creases and between the fingers.

5. Avoid vigorous, repetitive movements against resistance with the affected arm (scrubbing, pushing, pulling).

6. Avoid heavy lifting with the affected arm. Never carry heavy handbags or bags with over-the-shoulder straps.

7. Do not wear tight jewelry or elastic bands around affected fingers or arm(s).

8. Avoid extreme temperature changes when bathing, washing dishes, or sunbathing (no 1sauna or hot tub). Keep the arm protected from the sun.

9. Avoid any type of trauma (bruising, cuts, sunburn or other burns, sports injuries, insect bites, cat scratches).

10. Wear gloves while doing housework, gardening or any type of work that could result in even a minor injury.

11. When manicuring your nails, avoid cutting your cuticles (inform you manicurist).

12. Exercise is important, but consult with your therapist. Do not overtire an arm at risk; if it starts to ache, lie down and elevate it. Recommended exercises: walking, swimming, light aerobics, bike riding, and specially designed ballet or yoga. (Do not lift more than 12 lbs.)

13. When traveling by air, patients with lymphedema must wear a compression sleeve. Additional bandages may be required on a long flight.

14. Patients with large breasts should wear light breast prostheses (heavy prostheses may put too much pressure on the lymph nodes above collar bone). Soft pads may have to be worn under the bra strap. Wear a well-fitted bra that is not too tight and with no wire support.

15. Use an electric razor to remove hair from axilla. Maintain electric razor properly replacing heads as needed.

16. Patients who have lymphedema should wear a well-fitted compression sleeve during all waking hours. At least every four to six months see your therapist for follow-up. If the sleeve is too loose, most likely the arm circumference has reduced or the sleeve is worn.

17. Warning: If you notice a rash, blistering, redness, increase of temperature or fever, see your physician immediately. An inflammation or infection in the affected arm could be the beginning of lymphedema or a worsening of lymphedema.

18. Maintain your ideal body weight through a well-balanced, low sodium, high-fiber diet. Avoid smoking and alcoholic beverages. Lymphedema is a high protein edema, but eating too little protein will not reduce the protein element in the lymph fluid; rather this will weaken the connective tissue and worsen the condition. The diet should contain protein that is easily digested, such as chicken and fish.

Helping Prevent Lymphedema

For the patient who is at risk of developing Lymphedema, and for the patient who has developed Lymphedema.

WHO IS AT RISK? At risk is anyone who has had gynecological, melanoma, prostate or kidney cancer in combination with inguinal node dissection and/or radiation therapy. Lymphedema can occur immediately postoperatively, within a few months, a couple of years, or 20 years or more after cancer therapy. With proper education and care, Lymphedema can be avoided or, if it develops, kept under control. (For information regarding other causes of lower extremity Lymphedema, see What is Lymphedema?) The following instructions should be reviewed carefully pre-operatively and discussed with your physician or therapist.

1. Absolutely do not ignore any slight increase of swelling in the toes, foot, ankle, leg, abdomen, genitals (consult with your doctor immediately).

2. Never allow an injection or a blood drawing in the affected leg(s). Wear a LYMPHEDEMA ALERT Necklace.

3. Keep the edemic or at-risk leg spotlessly clean. Use lotion (Eucerin, Lymphoderm, Curel, whatever works best for you) after bathing. When drying it, be gentle, but thorough. Make sure it is dry in any creases and between the toes.

4. Avoid vigorous, repetitive movements against resistance with the affected legs.

5. Do not wear socks, stockings or undergarments with tight elastic bands.

6. Avoid extreme temperature changes when bathing or sunbathing (no saunas or hottubs). Keep the leg(s) protected from the sun.

7. Try to avoid any type of trauma, such as bruising, cuts, sunburn or other burns, sports injuries, insect bites, cat scratches. (Watch for subsequent signs of infection.)

8. When manicuring your toenails, avoid cutting your cuticles (inform your pedicurist).

9. Exercise is important, but consult with your therapist. Do not overtire a leg at risk; if it starts to ache, lie down and elevate it. Recommended exercises: walking, swimming, light aerobics, bike riding, and yoga.

10. When travelling by air, patients with Lymphedema and those at-risk should wear a well-fitted compression stocking. For those with Lymphedema, additional bandages may be required to maintain compression on a long flight. Increase fluid intake while in the air.

11. Use an electric razor to remove hair from legs. Maintain electric razor, properly replacing heads as needed.

12. Patients who have Lymphedema should wear a well-fitted compression stocking during all waking hours. At least every 4-6 months, see your therapist for follow-up. If the stocking is too loose, most likely the leg circumference has reduced or the stocking is worn.

13. Warning: If you notice a rash, itching, redness, pain, increase of temperature or fever, see your physician immediately. An inflammation or infection in the affected leg could be the beginning or a worsening of Lymphedema.

14. Maintain your ideal weight through a well-balanced, low sodium, high-fiber diet. Avoid smoking and alcohol. Lymphedema is a high protein edema, but eating too little protein will not reduce the protein element in the lymph fluid; rather, this may weaken the connective tissue and worsen the condition. The diet should contain easily-digested protein such as chicken, fish or tofu.

15. Always wear closed shoes (high tops or well-fitted boots are highly recommended). No sandals, slippers or going barefoot. Dry feet carefully after swimming.

16. See a podiatrist once a year as prophylaxis (to check for and treat fungi, ingrown toenails, calluses, pressure areas, athelete's foot).

17. Wear clean socks & hosiery at all times.

18. Use talcum powder on feet, especially if you perspire a great deal; talcum will make it easier to pull on compression stockings. Be sure to wear rubber gloves, as well, when pulling on stockings. Powder behind the knee often helps, preventing rubbing and irritation.

Unfortunately, prevention is not a cure. But, as a cancer and/or Lymphedema patient, you are in control of your ongoing cancer checkups and the continued maintenance of your Lymphedema.

Revised © January 2001 National Lymphedema Network. Permission to print out and duplicate this page in its entirety for educational purposes only, not for sale. All other rights reserved. For more information, contact the NLN: 1-800-541-3259.

Weight and the Prevention of Lymphedema

There is a growing epidemic in the United States, actually it almost might be referred to as a pandemic. That is the skyrocketing incidents of obesity, not only among adults, but also among children.

We are also seeing an increase in reported cases of lymphedema as a secondary condition caused by obesity.

Obesity and especially morbid obesity causes lymphedema by crushing and/or overwhelming the lymphatics.

In an article, “Obesity and cancer: the risks, science, and potential management strategies,” Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, from the Prevention Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, wrote: “The data from our survey suggests that lymphedema is more severe among those with higher body weight and that infections of the skin were much more common among patients with LE who were overweight. In addition, those who were overweight were more likely to have physical limitations that impaired their ability to conduct daily activities.” If you are not overweight, do all you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that you don’t get heavier.

If you are overweight, you must make a concerted effort to reduce your weight. Talk to your therapist and primary care doctor to set up a good regime of exercise and a good diet for you.

For information on healthy dietary ideas and suggestions see The Lymphedema Diet

Exercise and the Prevention of Lymphedema

There have also been studies completed that indicate exercise is good for the prevention of lymphedema. When I first came on line in the lymphedema world, people were horrified when I told them how much activity I did. Other then lymphedema, I have had no other medical problems. My cardiovascular system, cholesterol etc are all in good shape for a person of my age. I personally feel that the active lifestyle in conjunction with not becoming obese or greatly overweight are major reasons for this.

For information of exercises you can do see our page Exercises for Lymphedema

External Links

Lymphedema Risk Reduction

How to Avoid Lymphedema

Ways to prevent or manage lymphedema

How to help prevent and control lymphedema

LYMPHEDEMA PEOPLE RELATED MEDICAL CONDITIONS BLOGS AND WEBSITES

My Life with Lymphedema

http://mylifewithlymphedema.blogspot.com/

Developmental Disorders of the Lymphatics

http://lymphsystemdisorders.blogspot.com

Edema and Related Medical Conditions

http://edemainformation.blogspot.com/

Lymphedemaville

http://lymphedemaville.wordpress.com/Wordpress

Disorders of the Lymph System

http://lymphaticdisorders.wordpress.com/

Bacterial Infections

http://bacteriainfections.blogspot.com

Antibiotics

http://antibioticinformation.blogspot.com

Fungus Infections

http://fungalinfections.wordpress.com/

Cellulitis

http://cellulitisinfections.blogspot.com/

Trisomy Disorders

http://trisomydisorders.wordpress.com/

Lipedema

http://www.xanga.com/lipedema

Lymphangiectasia/Xanga

http://www.xanga.com/lymphangiectasia

Lymphangiectasia

http://lymphangiectasia.blogspot.com/

Lymphedema

http://www.xanga.com/lymphedema

Lymphedema

http://lymphedemahome.livejournal.com/

Alternative Medicine and Lymphedema

Blog.com

Malt Lymphoma

Blogspot

Merkel Cell Cancer

Blogspot

Ovarian Cancer

Wordpress

Burkitt's Lymphoma

Blog.com

MEDICAL GLOSSARIES

Lymphedema People Forums

In our forums section, you will find over 3,000 posts with hundreds of additional articles encompassing every aspect of lymphedema you can imagine. Information, questions and answers that will enable you to discover not only how to live with lymphedema, but to manage it, overcome it and lead a life that is rich, meaningful and rewarding.

Visitors can read the forums, but only members can post and answer questions. Come and be a part of the largest lymphedema online network in the world.

Here is a list of the forums:

Welcome Family

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=1

Membership Rules in New Forums

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=28

Lymphedema People Administrative, Management

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=2

Registry of Lymphedema Doctors

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=25

Lighthouse Lymphedema Network Lymphedema Education & Awareness Program

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=33

Events Calender

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=32

Personal Stories

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=3

Family Talk

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=26

Daily Lives with Lymphedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=27

Lymphedema Information

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=4

Children and Lymphedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=24

Young People with Lymphedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=31

Leg Lymphedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=29

Related Medical Conditions (often associated with lymphedema)

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=5

Complications of Lymphedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=6

Lymphedema Infections

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=7

Treatment Information for Lymphedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=8

Therapists, Clinics and Hospitals

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=9

Skin care, conditions and complications

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=10

Lymphedema Wounds

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=30

Lymphedema Lifestyles

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=11

Lymphedema and Cancer

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=13

Lymphedema Articles

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=12

Advocacy and Governmental Resources

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=14

Genetics, Research, Lymphangiogenesis, Angiogenesis

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=16

Organizations, Support Groups, Vendors

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=15

Lipedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=18

Lymphangiectasia

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com//phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=19

Lymphatic Filariasis

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=20

Lymphoedema

http://www.lymphedemapeople.com/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=23

Privacy Statement

Terms of Use

Rules of Conduct

Contact:

lymphedemapeople@aol.com

lymphedemapeople@yahoo.com

Reviewed May 14, 2012

how_to_prevent_lymphedema.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/16 14:40 (external edit)