18 Steps:  Lymphedema Prevention
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18 Steps in Preventing Lymphedema
By Saskia R.J. Thiadens, RN

I. Skin Care - Avoid trauma / injury to reduce infection risk

• Keep extremity clean and dry
• Apply moisturizer daily to prevent chapping/chafing of skin
• Attention to nail care; do not cut cuticles
• Protect exposed skin with sunscreen and insect repellent
• Use care with razors to avoid nicks and skin irritation
• If possible, avoid punctures such as injections and blood draws
• Wear gloves while doing activities that may cause skin injury (i.e., washing
dishes, gardening, working with tools, using chemicals such as detergent)
• If scratches/punctures to skin occur, wash with soap and water, apply antibiotics,
and observe for signs of infection (i.e. redness)
• If a rash, itching, redness, pain, increased skin temperature, fever or flu-like
symptoms occur, contact your physician immediately for early treatment of
possible infection

II. Activity / Lifestyle

• Gradually build up the duration and intensity of any activity or exercise
• Take frequent rest periods during activity to allow for limb recovery
• Monitor the extremity during and after activity for any change in size, shape,
tissue, texture, soreness, heaviness or firmness
• Maintain optimal weight

III. Avoid Limb Constriction

• If possible, avoid having blood pressure taken on the at-risk extremity
• Wear loose fitting jewelry and clothing

IV. Compression Garments

• Should be well-fitting
• Support the at-risk limb with a compression garment for strenuous activity (i.e.
weight lifting, prolonged standing, running) except in patients with open wounds
or with poor circulation in the at-risk limb
• Consider wearing a well-fitting compression garment for air travel
NLN Position Paper: Lymphedema Risk Reduction Practices

V. Extremes of Temperature

• Avoid exposure to extreme cold, which can be associated with rebound swelling,
or chapping of skin
• Avoid prolonged (greater than 15 minutes) exposure to heat, particularly hot tubs
and saunas
• Avoid placing limb in water temperatures above 102°Fahrenheit (38.9°Celsius)
VI. Additional Practices Specific to Lower Extremity Lymphedema
• Avoid prolonged standing, sitting or crossing legs
• Wear proper, well-fitting footwear and hosiery
• Support the at-risk limb with a compression garment for strenuous activity except
in patients with open wounds or with poor circulation in the at-risk limb



© 2008 National Lymphedema Network (NLN). Permission to duplicate this handout as-is, in its entirety, for educational purposes only, not for sale. All other rights reserved. For reprint permission, please contact the NLN office at 510-208-3200 or nln@lymphnet.org.
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