Lymphedema in the arm is a serious potential side effect of breast cancer surgery. Women who had their lymph nodes removed as part of the surgery are more likely to develop lymphedema.

Why Lymphedema Happens

The lymphatic system plays an important role in keeping the body healthy. Through its protein-rich fluid, the lymph, it collects waste products, viruses, and bacteria. The lymph flows through the lymphatic vessels and then to the lymph nodes. The lymphocytes within these lymph nodes filter the wastes and other products carried by the lymph. When the lymph nodes are injured or removed, the lymph can’t drain well, leading to lymphedema.

Taking Care of Lymphedema in the Arm

Knowledge about lymphedema care is important because if it’s left unmanaged, it can lead to infection. Below is a guideline on how to properly take care of lymphedema in the arm:

The Do’s

  • Take care of your skin well
    Lymphedema in the arm can potentially lead to infection. This is why proper skin care is important.

    Using a good quality moisturizer especially after shower or having a bath can help prevent skin dryness. Dry skin is more prone to skin infection as it tends to get itchy and prone to cracks.

  • Assess your skin regularly
    Prevention is always better than cure. By regularly inspecting your skin for cracks, rashes, redness, and other signs of skin problem can help you address the issue immediately before it leads to complications.

  • Wear your compression sleeve
    Wearing compression garments can help in improving lymphedema in the arm. The added pressure from these garments help in boosting the blood and lymph flow. Bioflect Therapy Garments has a wide range of high quality therapeutic garments that are beneficial for those with lymphedema.

The Don’ts

  • Do not wear too tight clothing
    If you have lymphedema, wearing restrictive clothing including jewelries is a no-no as it only contributes to the feeling of ‘tightness.’ It also further disrupts proper blood and lymph flow.

  • Avoid skin injuries
    Skincare is crucial as any break in the skin can predispose you to skin infection.

    You can avoid skin injuries by keeping your fingernails short, using electric razor to remove body hair instead of using razor blades, and avoiding injections on the affected site.

  • Avoid heat
    Heat can cause expansion of the blood vessels and hence, can only worsen the swelling. If you have lymphedema in the arm, it’s best to avoid saunas, hot shower, and the traditional massage.

These are only some of the ways on how you can properly take care of your lymphedema in the arm and avoid possible complications.

Image: Rennett Stowe

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