Lymphedema Risk Reduction

Risk Reduction Practices For People With Lymphedema According to the National Lymphedema Network

By Roseanne Cruz

It is not known why some people with the same risk factors develop lymphedema and some do not. People at risk of lymphedema are individuals who have not yet displayed the signs and symptoms of lymphedema but have a known insufficiency of their lymphatic system. This includes people who have undergone removal of lymph nodes or radiation therapy, which increases the risk for developing lymphedema. At-risk individuals have altered lymphatic function that may impede the body’s ability to take up excess fluids in the tissues.

For those with a confirmed diagnosis of lymphedema or at risk for developing it, consider the following:

  1. Routine medical check-ups
  2. Report changes- such as increase in size, change in sensation, color, temperature, or skin condition
  3. Body Weight- maintain normal body weight and seek help to lose weight if needed
  4. Exercise- incorrect or unsafe exercise may exacerbate lymphedema
  5. Compression garments- wear for air travel, exercise, and exertion
  6. Infections (cellulitis)- be aware of any signs of redness, warmth, pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms
  7. Skin care- maintain proper hygiene and use a moisturizer regularly
  8. Trauma- avoid trauma; protect against falls, fractures, and burns; use non-involved limb for venipunctures; proper nail care
  9. Constriction- ensure properly fitting compression bandages and clothing; avoid tight stockings or bras
  10. Avoid exposure to extreme heat or cold
  11. If you are having surgery, inform your surgery of your lymphedema condition
  12. Stasis- move, change position, and exercise periodically throughout the day
  13. Varicose veins- treating varicose veins may help to reduce lymphatic load and improve lymphedema
  14. Air travel- it is imperative to wear compression garments for the duration of the flight. It is also important to move around and exercise the affected limb and hydrate well to lower the risk of venous thromboembolism

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