One of the questions that is often asked on the online support group is why our members often have skin problems. Is it because of medication? The environment? Central heating in winter? Or is it down to our lymphoedema?
There isn't one simple answer. What we do know is skin is our largest organ and whether you have lymphoedema or not we owe it to ourselves to take loving care of it. Prevent our skin from drying out, check for cuts, grazes, rashes and treat immediately to stop infection getting in.
Bath or Shower?
When you have your bath/shower make sure you test the water temperature. Optimum shower temperature 32°- 42 ° Celsius. Ours is kept on 38° c because this suits me and my husband. It's a personal choice. We are lucky as our shower has its own thermostat. Extreme cold water temperatures are not good for lymphoedema skin, neither is anything too hot. Make sure you dry your skin thoroughly. Especially between fingers, toes, skin folds.
Wash your skin everyday
Use soap free cleansers (Aqueous Cream) that will not dry your skin out.
Dry you skin carefully, paying attention to between the fingers, toes and skin folds
Moisturising is an effective way to avoid dry skin, after your bath or shower get into the habit of treating your skin daily.
If you wear a sleeve or any form of compression garments, then moisturise at night before you go to bed.
Preferably use a non-scented low pH level soap and moisturiser as they are less likely to dry out the skin.
Moisturise from within by drinking more glasses of water.
Our skin is our largest organ - selfcare - love your skin
Why is skincare so important?
Living with lymphoedema you may be more likely to develop skin infections to your affected area or limb because lymph fluid drainage is reduced, and you have a compromised immune system. Your aim is to protect the integrity of your skin to prevent skin breakdown, cellulitis, and other fungal infections. Skin infections may worsen your lymphoedema and make it harder to manage.
Check your skin daily for changes, look for breaks in the skin, leakage of lymph fluid, unusual redness or more swelling than normal, lymph fluid leaking, indentations.
Remember with skin care as with most things in life there is no one size fits all. We are all different, we have different skin types, and the skin care I use will, not suit you. Skin care is a personal choice, however, do work with your lymphoedema nurse practitioner as you might need specialist creams. If you live in the UK, ask if specialist creams or lotions are available on prescription.
Moisturise everyday, make it part of your daily routine.
Pay particular attention to your elbows and heels. When you do this daily it only takes a few minutes and you owe it to yourself to look after your skin.
CAUTION: Keep moist areas of your skin dry. Keep in between your toes dry as this can be a source of infection.
It is extremely important that those of us who live with lymphoedema should take good care of our skin to prevent infection like cellulitis.
Check daily for:
Breaks in the skin
Treat immediately by washing area thoroughly, apply antiseptic cream. Use insect repellent when necessary.
Avoid any invasive procedures to the affected area.
No BP readings
No Blood tests,
Keep skin hydrated through daily moisturising. However, other ways to hydrate your skin is to moisturise from within. Drink plenty of water.
If you cannot face drinking water try a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon or lime.
Alternatively try herbal tea.
Stay away from caffeine like coffee and fizzy drinks as they may increase your swelling.
Whenever you try new skin care products always remember to do a patch test.
Lymphoedema skin can be super sensitive so please take good care of it.
My favourite shower aid
Foot Towel to dry in between your toes. Essential to keep this area dry to stay
Lotion applicator. If you have limited mobility this handy tool helps.