Steps you Can Take to Manage Your Symptoms
Consult your doctor as soon as symptoms arise. In addition to swelling of the affected limb, the most common problems are pain, hardening of the skin, and loss of mobility. Lymphedema must be addressed by a medical professional. If left untreated, it can get worse and may cause permanent damage.
Wear a compression garment. Non-elastic bandages and compression garments, such as elastic sleeves or tights, place gentle pressure on the affected area. This can help drain the lymph fluid and reduce swelling. It’s important to wear a compression garment when flying, even on short flights, as air pressure changes can lead to increased swelling. Be sure to consult your doctor and ask if you should be fitted for a compression garment.
Consider having a manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage. This type of massage helps move the fluid out from where it has settled. Afterwards, the affected limb is wrapped in low-stretch bandages that are padded with foam or gauze.
Exercise. Physical activity can help prevent swelling. Ask your health care team when it is safe for you to start exercising. Consider attending physical therapy or consult with your health care team for a program of special exercises that are safe for you to perform. Skin care. Keep your skin moisturized with lotion or creams. Avoid sunburn by wearing sunscreen or protective clothing outdoors. Always wear gloves when gardening or removing items from the oven or stove to help protect your skin.
Avoid injuries and treat infections. Try to avoid scratches and bruises to the at-risk area. Always treat cuts or infections and seek medical help if the problem persists.
Be gentle with your body. Carrying heavy packages, luggage, or shoulder bags puts stress on your affected limb and could cause additional swelling and pain. Try to use the opposite limb if possible.
Complete decongestive therapy (CDT). CDT combines skin care, manual lymphatic drainage, exercise, and compression. Talk to your doctor to see if CDT is right for you.