Managing your lymphoedema at home during the coronavirus
What is lymphoedema?
You may have been diagnosed with lymphoedema, which is swelling that develops because of a build-up of lymph fluid in the body’s tissues. Lymphoedema happens when the lymphatic system is not working properly and can happen anywhere in the body including the arms, legs, head, neck, chest and genital area.
Your treatment will include skin care advice, wearing a compression garment or bandage to reduce swelling and the risk of infection, movement and exercise and perhaps even using a gentle massage technique to help move fluid around the body.
It is important that you are an active participant in your care and understand the benefits of simple daily steps that will enable you to stay well.
How to discuss the above issues with your nurse are covered in this video whilst, at the same time, encouraging you to take better control of your lymphoedema.
How do I know if my lymphoedema or swelling is getting worse?
You should speak to your specialist nurse at Accelerate for advice as soon as you notice any of the following:
You may notice your clothing, shoes or jewellery (rings or watches) feeling tighter than usual, even before you see any swelling.
Changes in sensation in the limb
The limb or area may feel heavy, tight, full or stiff.
Changes with your skin
The affected area may feel tight, stretched or a thicker texture, and sometimes it can be dry, flaky, rough or scaly.
Aching in the effected area
You may feel some discomfort or an aching sensation where the swelling occurs.
Sometimes if your swelling deteriorates in your legs, fluid will begin to ooze from your skin. This can cause you great discomfort and can lead to bigger problems. If you have what is called ‘leaky legs’ you should contact your nurse and receive support as soon as possible
Redness and swelling
If you experience a noticeable tightening of your skin and it becomes shiny, red and hot you should contact your doctor or nurse as you may need some additional treatment
Looking after your skin when you have lymphoedema during the coronavirus
Looking after your skin and reducing the risk of infection (cellulitis) during Coronavirus is more important now than ever to help you stay well and avoid any need to go into hospital. The importance of this is described in the below video.
Guidance on how to look after your skin to help prevent infection
- Keep your skin clean and dry – cleanse daily using a soap substitute, such as aqueous cream, Oilatum or Neutrogena soap bars or an E45 wash.
- Moisturise your skin daily, at least once a day with an emollient or scent-free moisturiser
- Clean any cuts or grazes straight away with clean water, then put an antiseptic cream on and cover with a dressing
- Protect your skin from the sun by wearing a high factor sun cream or cover up with clothes
- Avoid hot baths, saunas and steam rooms because this can increase swelling
- Avoid extremes of temperature that can dry your skin – including hot, cold or windy weather
- Don’t wear tight clothing or jewellery
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time if you have leg swelling
- Don’t have injections, blood taken, or your blood pressure checked on the affected area
Washing your legs – home application and treatment during the coronavirus
Part of the secret to getting this done well, is to prepare everything before you start. You will need:
- A bowl which is large enough to fit your foot in filled with clean, warm water
- A dressing pack and gloves
- Non scented moisturiser or emollient cream. Remember if you have been advised to use a steroid cream you should apply this as you have been previously directed by your nurse or specialist
Once you have everything together and you are ready to change your dressing, first watch the film below, which takes you through the whole process.
We would like to thank Alison Schofield for making this short video available to us.
Please remember that a dressing can stay in place for up to 7 days unless it becomes loose, leaks or becomes uncomfortable.
What to look our for when applying compression hosiery, bandages or wrap systems
When the skin is clean, dry and moisturised (and a dressing if needed has been applied) you can apply your compression hosiery or wrap system firmly to begin the reduction of swelling and set you on the right path for managing your lymphoedema. Compression bandaging is normally only applied by your nurse, never apply this unless advised to do so.
Your garments may come in different brands and sizes this is to suit individual comfort to ensure the garment is worn correctly. You may have a full or partial limb garment dependant on the extent of the swelling. Its important to wear the full system you have been given to ensure a good squeeze (compression) to the affected area. Applying your garment can be tricky, practice is the key and ensuring you are sitting somewhere comfortable will also help. It takes time to learn how to do this well and if you’re struggling please do not give up.
These videos will help you ensure correct, firm and comfortable application of your garment. If your garment or wrap becomes loose remember to re apply for maximum consistent support. If further guidance is needed please speak to your lymphoedema Nurse.
Macmillan – a general guide for lymphoedema compression garment application
Medi – closed toe compression stocking application
Juzo – how to apply a compression wrap
L&R – how to apply Ready Wrap
Sigvaris – how to apply the Coolflex Wrap
Haddenham – Easywrap
If your compression garment is not seen here and you need further help, please get in touch with us for further guidance.
Hosiery and garments – home application and treatment during the coronavirus
If you find it difficult to apply your hosiery or garment, there are application aids which can be made available for you. Please ask your doctor or nurse about them. Here are the makes of some of the aids you may ask for:
Sigvaris Simon Applicator
Helpful instructions on how to use the Sigvaris SIMON to put on and remove your compression socks and stockings.
L&R Actiglide Applicator
The ActiGlide from L&R helps you to get your socks and hosiery on more easily. It helps with tights, thigh length and below knee hosiery, both closed and open toe styles.
Magnide Hosiery Applicator
Helpful instructions on how to use the magnide applicator to apply open and closed toe hosiery.
If you do not see the brand of applicator you use here and would like further help please contact us at Accelerate.
Exercise & Footwear
Using dressings, hosiery, wraps and compression bandaging are the medical solutions to ensuring progress in the self management of your swelling and lymphoedema. Exercise is important for managing lymphoedema, because of the following reasons:
- It works your muscles, which increases the flow of fluid and helps move it away from the swollen area
- It can help you maintain a healthy weight, which can reduce lymphoedema swelling.
- It keeps your joints flexible, maintaining and improving your range of movement.
- Exercise can also help you feel better about yourself and reduce stress and anxiety
The videos below will help you in achieving your goals around exercise and mobility to ensure good self management of your swelling.
Remember you are responsible for your success, not your nurse, who is there to help and support you. Only you can make the decision to make the extra effort to move towards successful management of your swelling and lymphoedema
Lymphoedema Arm exercises
Try and do these exercises daily as this will reduce any swelling. Find an appropriate area at home where you feel comfortable and safe. If in pain take prescribed medication before trying these exercises.
Leg exercises for Lymphoedema
If standing to do these leg exercises you can support your balance by using a table or chair for support. If family can support or even join in this would make this more fun.