Can You Prevent Lymphedema?
You may be wondering about lymphedema prevention and whether it’s possible. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent lymphedema. Because this condition is a result of a lymphatic system damage, there are currently no measures to prevent lymphedema. However, there are several ways you can prevent your symptoms from progressing.
If you’ve had cancer, you can get regular checkups to watch for lymphedema onset, even if you aren’t experiencing the symptoms of lymphedema. This checkup involves taking a measurement of your limbs/body immediately following your cancer treatment, tracking symptoms associated with lymphedema, and following up to make sure that measurement remains consistent.
While it’s normal to experience pain, swelling, and other symptoms following surgery, keeping in touch with your doctor is important. If you experience any sudden changes in your condition or symptoms that appear rapidly, let your doctor know and get a checkup. Changes you may be concerned about include swelling, changes in size, color, skin condition, feel, or temperature.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also help you reduce your risk of lymphedema. Obesity can put you at a higher risk for lymphedema, so maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is important.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to lymphedema prevention. Exercising regularly helps you regain strength in parts of your body that have been affected by cancer, plus it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Exercise can also promote the drainage of lymphatic fluid, which is an excellent way to relieve swelling associated with lymphedema. If you have lymphedema, it’s important to talk to your specialist or a trained fitness expert to determine an appropriate exercise plan that works for you. It’s recommended to start slow and work your way up to more intensive exercises to avoid further complications with your lymphedema.
When your skin is injured, whether from a burn, cut, or infection, your body sends white blood cells and fluid to the injured area. For people living with lymphedema, any skin injuries can lead to infection, so it’s important to practice safe hygiene. This means trimming your fingernails safely, using sunscreen, wearing gloves when gardening or cooking, and using an antibiotic ointment on any cuts you may have.
It’s also recommended to avoid needle pricks. If you want to sew, make sure you’re using a thimble. As far as vaccinations, blood pressure gauges, and blood draws go, it’s often advised to avoid the affected limb and to use a body part that isn’t affected by lymphedema.
Avoiding tight clothing, jewelry, and shoes can also help you reduce your risk of lymphedema. Anything tight on your body can decrease lymphatic drainage, so wear looser, more comfortable clothes and shoes. It’s also recommended to elevate any body parts affected by lymphedema to encourage the flow of fluid and reduce swelling.