Skin changes and infections are common complications with lymphoedema. Therefore, skin care is one element of Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and is part of both the decongestion phase (Phase I) and the maintenance phase (Phase II).
Daily wearing of compression bandages, wrap systems or garments can stress your skin: it may become dry and prone to small skin injuries, such as scratches. This increases the risk of bacteria entering your skin which may cause an infection. Deep skin folds that may develop because of swelling also increase the risk of infection.
Any infection like bacterial cellulitis can further harm your lymphatic system and worsen your symptoms. The aim of skin care for lymphoedema is to keep your skin intact and reduce the risk of infection as much as possible.
Good skin care with lymphoedema includes:
- Washing your skin daily with mild soaps or skin cleansers that are moisturising, hypo-allergenic, and have a neutral to slightly acid pH balance (around pH 5)
- Dry your skin carefully, especially any skin folds
- Apply emollients: they coat your skin with an oily layer that protects against water loss
- Avoid scented products that often irritate the skin
- Immediately disinfect and treat any cuts, scratches, or insect bites
- Avoid unnecessary injuries to your affected limb, such as taking blood samples or injection
- Pay attention to your nail care. Ingrown toe nails or dry skin around the nail bed may increase your risk of infection
- The affected skin is particularly sensitive to sun. If necessary, apply sun cream or cover up
Keep in mind that your skin condition will determine your skin care routine and which product is best for you. Talking to your healthcare professional (HCP) can help you to find the right product. In general, products that both moisturise your skin and maintain the protective layer of your skin are preferable.
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