What can you do about lymphedema?

Self-management: the right support for movement, diet, etc.

Take an active role in the treatment of the lymphedema and take responsibility for yourself and your health. Because not only medical treatments have a positive effect on the disease. Equally important are a healthy diet, ideal skin care and regular sporting activity.

Nutrition in lymphedema

Nutrition

Eat a balanced diet and avoid being overweight. Being overweight favours the formation of edema and impairs lymph flow. Die Kontrolle Ihres Gewichts kann dazu beitragen, Ihre Symptome zu lindern.  Vermeiden Sie übermässigen Salzkonsum, um Wassereinlagerungen vorzubeugen.

Make sure you drink enough fluids. When you drink a lot of water, you stay hydrated and support proper kidney function. Your body needs this to remove excess liquid, protein and other substances.

Lymphedema is not an indication for taking water tablets. Avoid taking medications that support edema in the body. 

Skin care

If the flow of lymph is chronically disturbed, protein-rich fluid accumulates in the tissues. This can lead to inflammations of the skin or subcutaneous tissue. Immune function in the area of the body affected by the lymphedema is also reduced. Fungal or bacterial infections occur more frequently, often even after only minor skin damage. These should be treated quickly and consistently.

Consistent remoisturising skin care is essential for edema. Clean and take care of your skin with pH-neutral skin care agents and remoisturising products - if possible, without irritating preservatives and perfumes. Avoid using deodorants near the edema. For deeper skin folds, pay attention that these stay dry and clean.

The correct skin care for edema

Two women play sport to take an active role in treating their lymphedema

Movement

Daily movement of the limbs (special exercises, walking, yoga, cycling, climbing stairs, etc.), especially with compression, is particularly beneficial.

A small selection of exercises follows below. Always train with your compression aid, ideally for 5 to 10 minutes 3 to 5 times per week. Pay attention to perform the exercises slowly with control and not to overexert yourself. The exercises should cause you neither pain nor muscle ache.

Further tips

Clothing

Wear comfortable clothing that does not restrict you and – for edema of the legs – flat shoes to support the flow of lymph through rolling motions.

Personal responsibility

Take an active role in your treatment and take responsibility for yourself and your health. Exchanges with other affected persons in self-help groups or societies can make dealing with the disease easier.

Avoid injuries and constrictions

Pay attention to body hygiene, e.g. for nail care, make sure not to damage the nail bed, and avoid skin damage, scrapes, jabs, etc. in general. Where possible, do not undertake medical interventions in the region of the edema (e.g. blood withdrawals or blood pressure measurements on the arm with edema). Constrictions should be avoided in the region of the edema in principle, e.g. from jewellery or clothing.

Avoid heat and cold

Avoid direct exposure to the sun (e.g. sun bathing) and extreme heat (sauna, steam bath, full baths). You should also avoid extreme cold.

Massages

Classic massages and heat treatments in the region of the edema should be avoided where possible as they can aggravate the edema.

Everyday stress

Try to avoid stressful situations in your job and in general. These can have a negative impact on your edema.

Further reading

Treating lymphedema correctly

Treating lymphedema correctly

Learn all about the treatment of lymphedema.
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