Throughout the years of treating lymphedema, we feel the following are the top 5 self-care tips for managing this condition.
1. Reduce your risks
Avoiding the main triggers for lymphedema will hopefully help you avoid the progression of this condition. This means maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing your chance of injury or infection to the area, using compression when flying (especially on long flights), and avoiding sunburns and any needles to the affected limb/area.
2. Put yourself first! Self-care is essential
Managing lymphedema can be overwhelming at times but start looking at it as “ME” time. Your health is your number one priority. Stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and exercise, like light weight training or going for a walk outside, are all beneficial for your management of lymphedema. Skin care is also important because it decreases the chance of infection significantly. Applying a good moisturizer to the skin a couple of times a day reduces the risk of skin breakdown and therefore infection. If you get a cut or scrape on the affected area, it is important that you clean it thoroughly and apply an antibiotic ointment immediately. At the first sign of infection (ie. rash, redness, feeling unwell, fever), you should seek medical attention immediately as infection can spread very quickly.
3. Compression is your new best friend
Compression bandaging will provide you with the most volume reduction and the best maintenance for lymphedema. We are always ready and willing to teach you how to do so. That being said, mastering the skill of applying these bandages is sometimes very challenging. Fortunately, there are many new options on the market that may be just as beneficial. Jovi, Sigvaris and other bandage companies have selections that are more user-friendly. You may check these options out online. Compression sleeves/stockings are also a very good option for the management of lymphedema. It is essential that you are fitted properly and wearing the appropriate amount of compression for your individual needs. The team at Sunnybrae Therapeutics is well versed in this and has a fitter that they refer to who is excellent.
4. Create your team
Since lymphedema is a chronic condition, it is important that you create a team of healthcare practitioners that you trust. Your family physician, physiotherapist, certified MLD therapist, nutritionist, etc. These individuals are the healthcare team that will assist you in managing and maintaining your lymphedema. Family and friends also play an essential role in creating your team as they will be able to provide you with support above and beyond what your healthcare team can. As well, when creating your team, don’t forget to look for groups in your area that are also living with lymphedema as these can be a very resourceful connection.
5. Knowledge is best
The more you know about your condition the better. Patients living with lymphedema often come up with brilliant ways to live and manage their condition. Learn from others what has worked for them but be mindful that everyone is unique and that sometimes what is good for one isn’t always good for another. Be creative yourself and make sure to share your ideas too.