There is no cure for lymphoedema, thus the condition must be treated as soon as possible in order to prevent further complications. Avoiding lymphoedema, especially with the extremely hot months on our doorstep and the imminent drought might seems like a daunting task, but with the guidelines provided it will quickly become a part of your routine.
A seroma is a pocket of fluid that builds up under the skin. It may develop after a surgical procedure usually at the site of the incision or where the tissue was removed, e.g. in the area of the donor site of the latissimus dorsi muscle. Aspirating it could easily lead to infection. The best way to treat is to bind the area with foam compression.
Trauma or injuries to the skin of the affected areas can bring on lymphoedema. When gardening, wear gloves. Be careful when playing with pets to avoid being scratched, rather wear gloves. When shaving your underarm use a lady’s electric shaver or a blunt razor. When cooking, avoid cutting or burning yourself. Soften your cuticles with cuticle oil and do not cut them. Keep your fingernails short with a file and try not to bite them.
NB! Avoid any injections, drips or blood to be taken on the affected side. Even before surgery if you are receiving chemotherapy do not allow them to administer the chemo to the arm on the same side as your breast cancer.
With the hot summer weather, increased number of mosquitoes and spiders go into making the hot months a time of increased risk. Use an insect repellent e.g. citronella and mosquito coils. Spray behind the curtains and under the bed with an insect repellent. Wear long sleeves at night if you are outside.
As you remember your lymph drainage system acts as an alarm system for infection. With a weakened drainage system you must avoid infection. If your skin is broken e.g. a cut, a burn, an animal scratch, an insect bite, clean the area with an alcohol swab and apply an anti-bacterial cream and a plaster until it is healed. Avoid cellulitis (infection of the skin). If you experience, any flulike symptoms together with redness, warmth and pain of the impaired lymph drainage area, see your doctor ASAP.
Any constriction, but not a compression sleeve or bandage can restrict the free flowing lymph fluid. Avoid clothing, bras and jewellery that are tight. Wear bras that are comfortable and have them especially sized for you. Blood pressure cuffs used improperly, repetitively and with extreme pressure will constrict the free lymph flow.
In the hot summer days, wear loose, light, non-constricting clothing. You will not only remain cool but you will also allow for free flow of the lymphatic system. Clothes that fit in the winter might be too tight in the summer.
If you wear a compression garment wash it more frequently as sweat, body oils and sunscreens can cause the fabric to deteriorate quicker.
Travelling more than four hours by road or by aircraft can increase the chance of developing lymphoedema. Drink loads of water, avoid salty snacks, do lots of deep breathing and more! If you wear any form of compression, wear it!
With the New Year in our midst going back to school and work, much of our time spent is on the road…If going by car, use the air conditioning. Move about as much as possible. If you are the driver be sure to take breaks from driving. Most importantly always stay hydrated!
Written by Sue Serebro.