If an individual has had surgery involving the removal of lymph nodes, the risk of developing lymphoedema is always present.
The skin is the first line of defense against foreign invaders and is usually impermeable to bacteria and other pathogens. However, any break in the skin such as burns, chafing, dryness, cuticle injury, cracks, cuts, splinters, and insect bites can present an entry site for bacteria and cause infection. Lymphoedematous skin tends to be dry and may become thickened and scaly, which increases the risk of skin cracks and fissures. Lymphoedematous skin is filled with protein-rich fluid, which serves as an ideal environment for bacteria to develop.
Inflammation may not only make lymphoedema much worse by increasing the swelling, but can also develop into a serious medical crisis.
How Can I Look After My Skin?
Cleanse your skin
Wash daily with mild cleanser. Avoid soap as this can cause the skin to dry.
Look at your skin.
Observe skin daily for cuts, scratches, burns and redness. If any are found, treat with antiseptic ointment and observe for any signs of infection.
Moisturise your skin
Moisturise your skin daily with non- perfumed lotion to keep the skin supple and stop it from becoming dry. Ointments used should contain no fragrance, be hypo-allergic and be around pH 5.
Bacteria that invade the tissues through a break or crack in your skin can cause CELLULITIS. Symptoms may appear suddenly and make you feel unwell
What to look out for:
- Red inflamed skin or a rash on the affected limb
- Warm/hot, tender tissues. The skin may look tight and glossy
- Sudden onset
- ‘Flu-like’ symptoms/malaise
- Increased swelling which may happen quickly
What do I do?
- Contact your own doctor as soon as possible. You may need prompt treatment with antibiotics, as this will help to clear the infection
- Remove your support garment
- Do not exercise your limb
- Do not do your simple Lymphatic Drainage
Prevention of Skin infection
- Taking care cutting nails. Avoid pushing back cuticles
- Use rubber gloves for washing up, gardening or other house hold tasks
- Wear gloves and long sleeves when gardening
- Use insect repellent when you are at risk of being bitten on holidays or in the garden
- Using an electric razor to shave under your arms, or depilatory cream (do a patch test first for sensitivity)
- Avoiding offering the limb at risk for the taking of blood pressure, blood samples, injections or needle acupuncture
- Use a thimble when sewing
- Dry well between fingers and toes and use antifungal cream if you have tinea (athlete’s foot)
- Wear a high factor sun lotion and keep the limb covered when in the sun. Be aware that you can still burn through the compression garment
- Avoid hot baths, saunas and Jacuzzis as heat can increase swelling
- Wash any break in the skin and apply antiseptic ointment. Always carry antiseptic ointment, alcohol swab and Elastoplast. If the area becomes red or inflamed see your GP PROMPTLY as you may need antibiotic therapy