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10 Tips for Better Living with Lymphedema

10 Tips for Better Living with Lymphedema
Kevin Cleary

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Fluid in your tissues can become backed up, causing lymphedema.
  2. Not taking precautions daily can help symptoms of lymphedema worsen.
  3. Some daily activities can actually make symptoms of lymphedema worse, interfering with routine daily chores.
  4. Lymphedema is caused by a compromised lymphatic system, often caused by cancer treatments.
  5. Following a daily routine can help your quality of life, and HPFY has everything you need to live with lymphedema.


Tissue swelling caused by an accumulation of protein-rich fluid is the cause of lymphedema. Normally, this fluid is drained through your body’s lymphatic system. Often, lymphedema affects your arms and legs but can also cause swelling in the chest wall, genitals, or even the abdomen and neck. One of the biggest root causes of lymphedema is cancer and its treatment, especially when lymph nodes are removed or damaged. In severe cases, lymphedema can lead to the inability to move affected limbs, increase the risk of infection, and even sepsis. Lymphedema can lead to a change in the skin and skin breakdowns.

Lymphedema Symptoms

Signs and symptoms vary in each individual lymphedema patient. If cancer treatments cause your lymphedema, symptoms may not occur for months or years after treatment. Symptoms of lymphedema can include: 

  • Swelling in part or all of the arm/leg (including fingers and toes)
  • Restricted range of motion in arms or legs
  • Fibrosis of the skin (hardening and thickening)
  • Infections returning again and again
  • Sensation of heaviness/tightness

Tips for Living with Lymphedema

Living with lymphedema in your legs or arms can be cumbersome. Lymphedema can be caused by several things, including cancer, radiation treatments, surgery, and even parasites. In rare cases, lymphedema can be an inherited condition where the lymph system doesn’t develop properly. Lymphedema therapists can’t cure this condition, but they can help you ease the symptoms. Some tips for living with lymphedema are:

1. Wear loose clothing

Avoid anything that is too tight or puts pressure on your skin, whereas compression garments evenly distribute pressure. They also have smooth surfaces to minimize skin irritation or tearing.

2. Avoid shoulder straps

When using or carrying a briefcase or purse, try not to use shoulder straps. Straps can put pressure on your affected skin, which can lead to skin issues.

3. Wear the right shoes

While living with lymphedema in legs, be sure to use well-fitting shoes that are closed-toed. It’s important to avoid sandals, flip-flops, or other open-toed shoes to ensure the safety of your skin.

4. Compression stockings

These compression garments are available for your leg or arm. They help squeeze the lymph fluid through your remaining vessels to prevent buildup. Ask your lymphedema therapist or doctor for the appropriate compression for you.

5. Blood pressure test

When you need to have your blood pressure tested, try to use the unaffected arm. If both arms are affected, you can ask to have your blood pressure taken in your thigh or with a hand pump and stethoscope since blood pressure machines often use higher pressures for a longer period of time.

6. No tight socks!!

Tight elastic bands in socks and stockings can compress the skin evenly. Try using compression socks or stockings to distribute pressure evenly to your lower extremities.

7. Mastectomy care

Since lymphedema can be caused by cancer and subsequent treatment, those who have had a mastectomy should use a lightweight prosthesis or breast form. A heavy prosthetic can cause too much pressure.

8. Avoid bug bites and exposure to the sun

Sunburn on normal skin is bad, but it’s worse for those suffering from lymphedema. Be diligent to use sunscreen and minimize your exposure to the sun. No sunburn!! Also, use insect repellent to avoid bites.

9. Saunas and hot tubs… Pass!!

While a hot tub or sauna may seem relaxing, it’s a hard pass for those with lymphedema. Due to high heat, both of these relaxation methods can increase blood flow and worsen swelling.

10. Certain positions/movements to avoid

Try to avoid rapidly swinging your affected limb in circles or letting it just dangle. As the National Library of Medicine recommends, try to keep your affected limb elevated above your heart to prevent blood from pooling in it.

3 Best Products to Make Managing Lymphedema Easier


When to Seek Medical Attention

Whether or not you’re going through cancer treatments, there are signs and symptoms when you should seek medical attention for lymphedema. If you should notice persistent swelling in an arm or leg, seek attention from your doctor ASAP. If you have already been diagnosed with lymphedema and you notice a dramatic increase in an affected limb, seek medical attention. In order to find a certified lymphedema therapist, contact:



Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.


HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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