Lymphedema: Managing Lymphedema
Lymphedema: Managing Lymphedema
How to manage lymphedema
Learn to recognize symptoms of lymphedema so that you can get treatment right away. Symptoms include:
- Feeling as though your clothes, rings, or other
jewelry are too tight.
- A feeling of fullness in your arm or
- Less flexibility in your wrist, hand, or ankle.
Do all you can to help keep the lymph fluid moving so that it doesn't collect in your arm or leg.
- Prop up your arm or leg on a pillow anytime you
sit or lie down. Try to keep the limb above the level of your heart whenever
- Don't let anyone use a
blood pressure cuff on your affected arm. If you are
in the hospital, make sure that your nurse and other hospital staff know about
- If your leg is affected, try not to cross your legs
when you sit. Don't sit in one position longer than 30
- Keep your clothing loose around the limb that is affected.
For example, don't wear shirts with elastic cuffs. Wear the right size panty
hose and stockings. Don't wear garters or knee-high or thigh-high
- Don't use heating pads on the area. And stay out of
saunas and hot tubs. Heat may increase the blood flow and make swelling
- Be careful not to overuse your arm or leg right after your surgery. But check with your doctor to see when it is okay to exercise that part of your body.
- Follow your
doctor's advice about what daily exercises you should do. Exercises can help
drain the lymph fluid.
physical therapist. He or she can teach you how to do
special massages that can help move fluid out of your arm or leg. You also can
learn what activities would be best for you.
Do all you can to protect your arm or leg from injury and infection.
- Ask your doctor how to treat any cuts,
scratches, insect bites, or other injuries that you may get.
sunscreen and insect repellent to protect your skin from sunburn and insect
- Protect your arm or leg from needle injections—no blood
draws or shots, including
chemotherapy. If you are in the hospital, make sure
that your nurse and other hospital staff know about your
- Wear gloves when you garden or do other activities that
may lead to cuts on your fingers and hands. Use a thimble when you
- Keep your feet clean, and wear clean socks or stockings every
- Don't walk barefoot, especially outside.
your feet often for cuts, blisters, or signs of infection.
good care of your skin and nails. Use a mild soap that has a moisturizer, or
use a moisturizer separately. Skin that is dry and cracked can get infected. Be
careful when you clip your nails. Don't cut your cuticles.
- Use an
electric razor if you shave an arm or leg that is affected.
your doctor at the first sign of a rash or inflammation on your arm or
Follow your doctor's advice about wearing a special bandage or compression garment. These specially fitted stockings or sleeves are designed to help keep fluid from pooling in the leg or arm.
Test Your Knowledge
You can help prevent lymphedema by moisturizing your
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Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
June 28, 2011
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