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Precautions To Avoid or Manage Upper & Lower Extremity Lymphedema

american cancer society breast cancer breast cancer survivors cancer cancer diagnosis empowered health healthy living helpful tips lower body extremity lymph nodes lymphedema self-care upper body extremity wellness Mar 12, 2021

Lymphedema is the swelling produced by the accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissue. You are at risk if you have undergone a lymph node dissection and/or radiation for any type of cancer. With proper education and care lymphedema can be avoided, or if it develops, kept well under control. Older individuals and those with poor nutrition have an increased risk, as do individuals with infections.

If Lymphedema goes untreated, it can result in decreased function, range of motion, numbness, and swelling of the affected area. In addition, this damage may result in pain and tightness in the area as the lymph vessels close-up. tighten, and sometimes snap.

Guarding against infection is extremely important because the affected area will be more susceptible to infection and infection can cause increased swelling. If any signs of infection are noticed, you should contact your doctor or lymphatic drainage therapist immediately. These signs include swelling, fever, or skin that is red, tender, warm, persistently itchy or blotchy.

Infections are possible at any stage of lymphedema, but occurrence becomes greater as stages progress. A swollen limb, left untreated, becomes hard (fibrotic) and full of lymph fluid which is high in protein and a perfect medium for bacteria and infections.

NOTE: The risk of lymphedema does not increase or decrease with time.

Here are some precautions to avoid or manage lymphedema:

* Avoid insect bites, burns, skin irritants, hangnails, and torn cuticles (wearing gloves while doing housework or gardening is a great idea)

* Avoid tight fitting jewelry on the affected arm or hand

* Wear loose fitting clothing on arms, chest, and shoulders

* Don't overheat. Avoid saunas, whirlpools, steam rooms, hot baths, and sun bathing.

* Do not receive shots, have blood drawn, or have blood pressure drawn on the affected arm (or leg)

* If you are overweight and experience swelling, losing weight an help reduce it by reducing the amount of fatty tissue which retains fluid and blocks lymphatic pathways.

* Avoid or be very cautious when doing things that involve repetitive movements such as tennis, racquetball, golf, and bowling, for examples.

* Avoid repetitive day-to-day

* Keep the at-risk limb spotlessly clean and use lotion after bathing

*Avoid repetitive day-to-day movements such as scrubbing, pushing, or pulling, with the at-risk arm

* Avoid carrying heavy handbags or bags with over-the-shoulder straps on the affected arm

* When traveling by air, patients with lymphedema, or those who are at risk, must wear a well-fitted compression sleeve

* Use an electric razor when shaving (neck and armpits for upper and legs for lower)

I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have further questions, you can always reach me at [email protected] 


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