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Living with Lymphoedema

Day to Day Strategies to Support People with Lymphoedema

Whether primary or secondary, we know there is currently no cure for lymphoedema. However the disease can be kept well under control with a good management plan.

Here are our best tips for living with lymphoedema:

  • Change limb position often rather than let it rest in one position for too long.
  • Avoid slowing circulation and try to sleep so that your body weight isn't pressing on the limb. If possible, sleep with an arm above your head as the lymph pathways from the arm area will be more direct.
  • Exercise is good. Go for shorter periods so as not too over-tire the limb.
  • Carry bags and heavy loads on the unaffected side.
  • Use the unaffected limb for blood pressure measurements and injections.
  • Avoid all injury to the limb, eg shaving a limb should be done carefully with an electric razor.
  • Have any infections and unusual redness (inflammation) attended to immediately by a medical doctor.
  • Have manual lymphatic drainage done immediately on recent bruising or haematoma.
  • Keep the limb in the shade as much as possible and especially avoid sunburn.
  • Clothing should be loose and comfortable with no tight constriction on the affected side, eg bra straps, elasticised socks or under garments.
  • Wear a wristwatch only on the unaffected side as it may trap bacteria or pinch the skin on the affected side. Tight jewellery may have the same effect.
  • Keep the affected limb as clean and supple as possible by using cleansing lotions.
  • When taking a shower or bath use tepid-warm water rather than hot-warm temperatures as heat will make the oedema worse.
  • Wash your bandages or compression sleeve frequently, according to the manufacturer instructions, ie every three days, and air-dry away from direct sunlight.
  • Report any chaffing, redness, indentation, looseness or tightness of the your garment to your therapist.
  • Wear a light prosthesis if one is used on the affected side.
  • Keep your weight down as much as possible and try to lose weight if you are overweight.
  • A low-salt diet is recommended.

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Living with Lymphoedema