It’s important to take good care of your skin – especially in the affected area. Keep your skin clean and dry. Use moisturizers regularly to keep your skin from cracking.
How to care for cuts, scratches, or burns
- Wash the area with soap and water.
- Put an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment on the area. Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you’re not sure what to use.
- Cover with a clean, dry gauze or bandage. Keep the area clean and covered until it heals. Change the dressing each day and if it gets wet.
- For burns, apply a cold pack or cold water for at least 15 minutes, then wash with soap and water and put on a clean, dry dressing.
- Check every day for early signs of infection: pus, rash, red blotches, swelling, increased heat, tenderness, chills, or fever.
- Call your doctor right away if you think you have an infection.
Caring for your whole body
Taking care of your whole body is also important. Here are some good ways to stay as healthy as possible:
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- Eat more servings of vegetables and fruits each day (try for at least 2½ cups total).
- Choose whole-grain foods instead of white flour and sugars.
- Cut back on red meat and processed meats like hot dogs, bologna, and bacon.
- If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to 1 drink a day.
- Don’t forget to get some type of regular exercise. This is a key part of lymphedema management. Talk to your health care team about the types of exercise that are best for you. The challenge with exercise recommendations for women with and at risk for lymphedema is that there are risks to both exercising and NOT exercising. This situation is much like exercising after a heart attack: Not exercising allows for further deconditioning (which is bad), but over-exercising may cause harm. Trained health professionals such as fitness trainers and physical and occupational therapists can help you learn how to exercise safely.
- Try to reduce the stress in your life and get enough sleep.
You also need people you can turn to for strength and comfort. Support can come in many forms: family, friends, cancer support groups, places of worship or spiritual groups, online support communities, or one-on-one counselors. You may want to get support from others with lymphedema. It helps to talk to people who understand what you’re going through. Call us or contact the National Lymphedema Network (see the “To learn more” section) to find support groups in your area.
You can’t change the fact that you are at risk for lymphedema. What you can change is how you live your life – taking good care of yourself, making healthy choices, and doing what you can to make your body and your mind feel as good as possible.
Last Revised: 07/03/2013