Is lymphedema preventable?
It is important to understand that there is no guarantee that patients can prevent lymphedema if they are at risk for it. Those patients at-risk should ask their physician to refer them to a certified lymphedema therapist (CLT) to discuss their individual case. The CLT will screen the patient for lymphedema by taking baseline measurements of the at-risk and unaffected limbs to keep records. Patients can even put these measurements in their LymphCare diary! That way if they start to notice swelling or any signs and symptoms of lymphedema, they will know to take action to call immediately.
You might also want to review these helpful guides with your patients. Many of them are common sense approaches to living not only a healthy life, but to helping reduce their risk of lymphedema.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising can help keep a normal body weight, which can also significantly lower the risk of lymphedema.
- Exercise: Before a patient begins an exercise routine, they should check with their medical professional or CLT. It’s useful to gradually build up the time and intensity of your workouts to see how their body reacts.
- Keep an eye out: They’ll also want to monitor the at-risk area to see if there is any abnormal swelling, change in sensation, shape of the limb, soreness, or heaviness.
- Create a good skin care routine: Keeping skin clean, dry, and well cared for is super important. Make sure they apply moisturizer to keep their skin from cracking, and wear sunscreen and bug spray when they are outdoors.
- Know the signs of infections: Infections are dangerous for anyone, but especially for those at-risk of lymphedema. Patients should make sure to clean all cuts, scrapes, and insect bites when they happen and keep an eye on them. It’s a great idea for them to keep a small first aid kit with them when they travel or are outdoors.
- Protect the at-risk limb: Patients should try to avoid injury to that area such as cuts, scrapes, or even needle sticks. If possible, they should ask their medical professionals to do blood draws or vaccines on the limb that is not at-risk.
- Avoid tight fitting objects on your at-risk limb: Patients should try not to wear tight fitting clothes, rings, jewelry, or carry a heavy bag or purse on the at-risk side. This also goes for avoiding blood pressure cuffs on the at-risk side if possible.