Patients can take steps to prevent lymphedema or keep it from getting worse.
Taking preventive steps may keep lymphedema from developing. Health care providers can teach patients how to prevent and take care of lymphedema at home. If lymphedema has developed, these steps may keep it from getting worse.
Purpose of This Summary
This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the risks of continued smoking in cancer patients and about quitting patterns and cessation intervention in these patients. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients. It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions.
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Tell your health care provider right away if you notice symptoms of lymphedema.
See the General Information section for symptoms that may be caused by lymphedema. Tell your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms. The chance of improving the condition is better if treatment begins early. Untreated lymphedema can lead to problems that cannot be reversed.
Keep skin and nails clean and cared for, to prevent infection.
Bacteria can enter the body through a cut, scratch, insect bite, or other skin injury. Fluid that is trapped in body tissues by lymphedema makes it easy for bacteria to grow and cause infection. Look for signs of infection, such as redness, pain, swelling, heat, fever, or red streaks below the surface of the skin. Call your doctor right away if any of these signs appear. Careful skin and nail care helps prevent infection:
Use cream or lotion to keep the skin moist.
Treat small cuts or breaks in the skin with an antibacterial ointment.
Avoid needle sticks of any type into the limb (arm or leg) with lymphedema. This includes shots or blood tests.
Use a thimble for sewing.
Avoid testing bath or cooking water using the limb with lymphedema. There may be less feeling (touch, temperature, pain) in the affected arm or leg, and skin might burn in water that is too hot.