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Lymph-what-oedema

Primary & Secondary Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

Welcome to our Skin-care Page

Welcome to L-W-O's Skin-care page.  The aim of this page is to help us understand that, for those of us who live with Lymphoedema, how important it is to take care of our skin.  Our skin is our largest organ and it needs to be nourished and cared for.  Looking after our skin is our responsibility.   L-W-O members often make recommendations that work for them, so what works for one member might not work for another.  

Links away from this page are intended for UK residents.  Please see our Website Linking Policy.   Our overseas visitors are very welcome.  However, L-W-O always asks all our visitors to check with your own Health-care professionals before making changes to your skin-care.

There are one link in the drop-down menu;

www.lymph-what-oedema.com/foot-care

Skin Brushing

The video above is demonstrated by Christine Morgan.  Skin brushing routine when lymph nodes have been removed.

Body Brushing

Body brushing will help get rid of dead skin cells and help your skin from drying out, leaving your skin silky soft. Furthermore body brushing helps to eliminate toxins and helps with cell regeneration.  It gives a big boost to your lymphatic system by moving lymphatic flow.  Body brushing stimulates the blood flow and circulation as well as sweat and sebaceous glands.

​Body brushing;

  • restores radiance to the skin
  • stimulates circulation
  • eliminates toxins
  • ​rejuvenates the nervous system
  • boosts skin elasticity
  • ​removes dead skin

Tips

  • always brush towards the heart
  • use long, upward overlapping strokes
  • avoid skin that is broken or wounded
  • it is normal for skin to turn slightly pink
  • best time to brush is in the morning before a shower
  • clean brush with soap and water

Compression

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Skin Problems

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? Or is it down to our lymphoedema?  I am really not qualified to answer this question, however I have a friend who for years worked in the textile industry.   He has been left with Chromium poisoning in his feet.  This has turned his feet yellow.  My friend has always stated that if you have eczema or dermatitis you should not wear black or navy next to your skin because of the high concentration of Chromium in the dyes.   I started researching and have found an article you might find of interest.  The article is about the toxins that are in your clothes.  The link below is for you to read yourself and make your own decision;

http//:totalhealthmagazine.com/articles/allergies-asthma/consumers-beware-toxins-lurking-in-your-clothing.html

Here is an extract from the article that made me sit up and take notice. 
"When toxins are absorbed through the skin, they are taken up by the lymphatic system, then into the blood stream and eventually the liver---the chemical processing plant of the body responsible for removing the toxins".

The author and source of this article is Gloria Gilbere she specializes in environmental health, inflammation, chemical sensitivities and chemically induced immune system disorders.  Gloria Gilbere has written two articles on the Lymphatic System and several books on the subjects she specializes in.  Website:  www.gloriagilbere.com

I fully understand that virtually every piece of clothing we wear is synthetic and therefore full of chemicals.  With the need for affordable clothing most of us do not have a choice.  However, what we can do if a skin problem develops and worsens when wearing a particular piece of clothing is to discard that item.  Please be aware, but don't let it rule your life.

Bath/Shower

When you have your bath/shower make sure you test the water temperature.  Optimum shower temperature 320​ - 42 0 ​Celsius.  Ours is kept on 380 ​because this suits me and my husband.  Its 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 sensitive areas and the toes.  Looking after your feet in cold weather is as important as in warm.

Foot Care

  • Wear well-fitting footwear for support and to protect your feet and avoid getting blisters.
  • New shoes -  break in before wearing to a special occasion
  • Please do not wear flip flops, mules they are inclined to cause stress fractures not good for lymphoedema
  • Blisters can cause cellulitis
  • Regularly check your feet for signs of infection
  • Don't walk around barefoot in case you step on something or stub your toe
  • Don't walk around barefoot as you are more likely to pick up fungal infections
  • Wash and dry between your toes carefully and use anti-fungal powder to prevent athlete's foot, or if you have symptoms of it, such as peeling skin
  • Wear clean socks or stockings everyday
  • Wear cotton socks but make sure they are not too tight
  • Make sure socks don't leave indentations
  • If you can, see a chiropodist regularly

​Visit our Foot-care page for more in depth information on how to take care of your feet.

​www.lymph-what-oedema.com/foot-care

Elbows and Heels

Moisturise your skin daily including your elbows, feet, heels, knees and legs to make sure you keep your skin in good condition. 

Preferably use a non scented low pH level moisturiser.

Cold weather

 

There is great emphasis on how to look after your Lymphoedema skin in hot weather.  However, we must not forget that we need to care for our skin in cold weather.

Skin can become chapped and dry as the autumn and winter approaches.  If you start to scratch because your skin has become dry, then you may cause a break in the skin that would allow infection to get in. 

 

Cold air and central heating can also have quite an effect on your skin. If you turn your central heating off at night or down low this will reduce your skin drying out whilst you snuggle under the duvet.  This will also save you money on your heating bills!!  

Before going to bed, drink a glass of water this will help your skin stay hydrated overnight. If you can't face water before you go to bed try a cup of Camomile or Night Time tea very calming and relaxing.

Start your day

Moisturise

Reduce the risk of infection

Moisturise                     Moisturise          Moisturise          

Our skin is the largest organ in our body and we need to take care of it as it will be with us for the rest of our lives.  Looking after your skin now that you have been diagnosed with lymphoedema is extremely important. 

Skin can become dry and at times you may feel you want to scratch, cracks and breaks can happen quite easily, often before you become aware.  By moisturizing your skin you help to protect and prevent the breakdown that should help reduce swelling that could lead to infection.

Skin Hygiene

Keep your skin clean and dry.  I cannot stress enough the importance of hygiene and especially hand washing. 

 

  • Use soap free cleansers (Aqueous Cream) that will not dry your skin out.
  • Moisturising is a good way to avoid this so after your bath or shower get into the habit of treating your skin on a daily basis. 
  • If you have to wear a sleeve or any form of compression garments, then moisturise at night before you go to bed. 
  • I can not emphasise enough how important it is to moisturise with an unperfumed cream or oil.  If you do it daily it takes seconds.

Water

Don't forget to moisturise from within, drink lots of water.

Skin Hydration

  • Keep hydrated this is good way of moisturising from within. 
  • If you can't face cold water try a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon or lime.
  • Stay away from Caffeine like coffee and fizzy drinks. 
  • Try drinking herbal teas, there are so many different flavours to try.

Food - good for the skin

Another way to nourish your skin is to eat fruit and vegetables especially those with vitamins A, C, and E.

Very few foods have vitamin D in and you need this for your skin.  Oily fish such as herring, fresh tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines all good for you.

Antioxidant foods such as broccoli, dark leafy vegetables, kiwi, peppers and tomatoes all contribute to your wellbeing.

Radiotherapy

Whilst undergoing radiotherapy you will already have been advised to use copious amounts of aqueous cream to keep your skin in the best possible condition.  However once your skin has settled down after treatment then you can find a moisturising cream that suits you.  If in doubt ask your pharmacist. 

I have been lucky that I am able to use a moisturising cream from my local supermarket which is more than adequate for my needs and is inexpensive.

Patch Test

Whenever you try new products always remember to do a patch test.

Lymphoedema skin can be super sensitive so please take good care of it.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is also very good for skin.  There are plenty of natural products on the market that do not contain chemicals.

Coconut oil

Several of our members recommend Natural Organic Virgin Coconut oil this is;

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antifungal. 

Prevent Infection

Small cuts and grazes should be treated immediately by washing the area thoroughly, then apply antiseptic cream.  I carry a tube of antiseptic cream every time I go out. 

If you see any sign of infection then a trip to see your doctor is a must. 

To emphasise the dangers, one of our L-W-O members had a small paper cut at work. This was early morning by 12.00 p.m., she was sent home. Early evening she felt extremely poorly her temperature by this time had shot up to 39. At 8.00 p.m. she was admitted to hospital.  This is how quickly infection can spread with Lymphoedema.  

If your GP surgery is not open then look for your nearest walk in centre.  Please remember A & E departments are overstretched, however never leave an infection and if that is the only option you must use it.  At all times avoid the following:

Avoid

Avoid having blood taken from the affected side or site of your lymphoedema

  • No injections, blood transfusions, drip infusions, acupuncture or tattoos to the affected side or site
  • Make sure family and friends are aware so that if you are incapacitated in any way they can speak for you
  • Carry a Medical Alert card or wear a bracelet with your details on
  • Use ICE (in case of emergency) on your mobile phone with a contactable number for next of kin
  • When using ICE there is a place to put notes so you can give details of your lymphoedema
  • If you phone is pass coded please make sure you carry a Medical Alert Card
  • If you see any signs of infection use a marker pen, circle the area so that, when you seek medical help they can see how quickly it has spread

Important

Very important point; I do not remember being told or remember seeing in any of the material I have read, about letting other people know that you have lymphoedema.  

Please make sure that your family and friends are aware in case of accident that, they can tell health care professionals that, you have lymphoedema.  This might seem like common sense but in case you are incapacitated they can make sure blood or injections are not given or taken from your affected limb. 

My lymphoedema is Breast & Chest Wall so I do not wear a compression garment and therefore it would not be obvious that I have lymphoedema.  It is important that my family and friends know that I can not have, blood or blood pressure, or injections from, my affected side. 

COMPRESSION HOSIERY

It is important to be fitted by someone experienced in selecting, measuring and fitting compression garments.  Your lymphoedema specialist will do this for you. Compression garments are available in different grades of pressure depending on the degree of your lymphoedema. The specialist will request a prescription from your GP for an appropriate garment.

THEY WORK BY:

  • compressing the swollen tissues and stopping fluid from building up
  • helping to move fluid to an area that's draining well, providing support, which allows the muscles to pump fluid away more effectively

Watch our picture video on Living with Lymphoedema 

Wearing & Removing Compression

During your fitting you will be advised and shown how to put on and remove the garment.

  • Put your garment on first thing in the morning, when the limb is at its smallest, but not immediately after a shower or bath as dampness can make it difficult to put on.
  • There are different applicator aids available to help put garments on and to take them off.
  • Make sure the material is distributed evenly and there are no wrinkles or creases when your garment is on. Wearing a rubber glove on the unaffected hand can help you smooth the garment out.
  • Moisturize your skin at night after you have taken off your garment rather than in the morning, because cream makes hosiery difficult  to put on.

Some of the L-W-O members have found these fun sleeves to put over their arm compression garments.

I am thrilled to see that manufacturers are now beginning to do other colours in compression garments besides beige.  This is a great step forward. 

Washing Instructions

Washing instructions should be provided by the manufacturer – please ensure that you follow these instructions as guarantees do not cover misuse during laundry.  Basically, a gentle machine or hand wash is preferable (non-biological, gentle detergent) and no conditioner, as this will tend to damage the elastic
properties.  Remove excess water by pressing the garment between a folded towel and allow it to dry naturally. Never put the garments over a radiator or in the tumble drier.

If you follow the link below produced by the NHS & LSN, this gives a more detailed account of compression garments.

http://www.nhs.uk/ipgmedia/national/Lymphoedema%20Support%20Network/Assets/Compressiongarments(LSN).pdf

Importance of Compression

It is important to wear your compression garment all day, but it can usually be taken off at night when you are lying down and resting.  If you are travelling a long distance, especially by air, make sure you wear it for the full length of your journey and for some hours afterwards. You should be given two garments so that you can have one in the wash while you wear the other. The manufacturer will supply washing instructions.  Worn every other day, they usually last 4-6 months.

If your compression garment is too loose, it won't control the swelling and needs to be refitted. If it is too tight, it will restrict blood flow. If you get pins and needles, pain, or your toes change colour, its too tight. Remove it straight away and contact your lymphoedema specialist  for advice.

Below photograph of compression to tight

 

There are some situations when compression garments shouldn't be worn. You should avoid wearing one if:

  • you have an infection (cellulitis)
  • the arm is large and irregular in shape
  • the skin is fragile or damaged 
  • the skin is pitted or folded 
  • leaking lymph fluid

Compression garments used incorrectly can be harmful, and won't help the swelling go down. The material can form tight bands across the skin and even damage it.  If you are in doubt, ask your lymphoedema specialist for advice.

 

Source: Lymphoedema Support at the Mary Ann Evans Hospice.  Thank you to Kay and Nicky for your help and support.

Taping

Compression Hosiery is a great  way of reducing swelling but taping can be just as successful.  Kinesio taping is used to treat severe Lymphoedema.  Unlike the compression garments that you remove at night, Kinesio tape can be used 24 hours a day.  In simple terms the tape moves with you and channels the flow of lymphatic fluid away from the areas it has built up in.  Many of the ladies in members group have been taught to do the taping for themselves.  The tape also comes in a variety of colours which our ladies like.  Below is a photograph of Donna Walsh's arm showing how her taping looks. 

 

The taping was done by Craig Hadley who originally comes from Dudley but now based at Los Al Cazares, Murcia, Spain

Skin care

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Alcohol

  • Remember alcohol dehydrates the skin. 
  • Everything in moderation. 

Medication

Certain medications make me itch and I scratch like mad, so if this happens to you, see your doctor.  Several of my medications state, 'may cause itching, skin rashes or hives'.

  • Read the leaflet that comes with your medication
  • Check leaflet for possible side-effects
  • In some cases your GP can prescribe an antihistamine
  • Speak to your GP or Pharmacist

You can also report side-effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme website www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard

Lymphoedema and Diabetes

To be researched and written

Liability

Please read the Medical Disclaimer in the Footer below.

Please remember that L-W-O does not accept responsibility or liability for these tips.  Always consult your own Health Care Professional.

Carry Medical Alert

Page last updated 02/07/2017