Lympedema Prevention/Reducing Risk
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 if their institution has a Lymphedema Prevention Program (LPP) in place. With an LPP, an institution can ensure that the proper protocols are in place such that lymphedema can be detected and managed BEFORE it becomes a debilitating, chronic condition. In addition, patients can request to be referred 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.
You may want to consider the following helpful guides.
Many of them are common sense approaches to living not only a healthy life, but to helping reduce the 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.
- Pay close attention: Monitor the at-risk area to see if there is any abnormal swelling, change in sensation, shape of the limb, soreness, or heaviness.
- Develop a sensible skin care routine: Keeping skin clean, dry, and well cared for is super important. Be sure to apply moisturizer to keep skin from cracking, and wear sunscreen and bug spray when 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 as soon as they happen and keep an eye on them. It’s a great idea to keep a small first aid kit when you 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 and when possible, ask 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.