It's not possible to completely prevent lymphoedema, but the following advice may help reduce your chances of developing it.
If you already have lymphoedema, this advice may stop it getting worse.
The part of your body affected by lymphoedema is more vulnerable to infection of the build-up of fluid within the tissues.
Any cuts in your skin can allow bacteria to enter your body and may quickly develop into an infection.
Skin infections can also damage your lymphatic system and cause lymphoedema to develop.
You can reduce your chances of developing skin infections by:
- not having injections or blood pressure readings in the affected area whenever possible
- treating cuts and scratches immediately with an antiseptic cream
- using insect repellents to prevent insect bites
- keeping your skin clean and dry, and using an alternative to soap, such as an E45 wash
- moisturising the skin daily to keep it supple – a GP can prescribe a suitable cream
- avoiding very hot baths and showers – the heat from saunas, steam rooms and sun beds may increase the swelling
- using sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) to prevent sunburn
- wearing gloves for gardening and household tasks to avoid cuts if your upper limbs are affected
- using anti-fungal powder to prevent fungal infections in your skin or feet if your lower limbs are affected
- cutting your nails with nail clippers
- seeing a chiropodist for foot and nail care – make sure you tell them you have lymphoedema
- wearing shoes that fit correctly and provide support on the top of your feet and avoiding going barefoot if your lower limbs are affected
- using an electric razor if you need to shave to reduce the risk of cutting yourself
- not wearing tight fitting clothes or jewellery
- following careful mouth and dental hygiene if you have lymphoedema in your head and neck
Contact a GP as soon as possible if you develop symptoms of a possible skin infection. These symptoms may include redness or a feeling of heat in the skin.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk of developing lymphoedema, and may also help control the condition if you already have it.
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- maintaining a healthy weight – use the BMI healthy weight calculator to work out whether you're a healthy weight for your height
- exercising regularly
Read more about how to lose weight on the NHS Better Health website.
Page last reviewed: 1 August 2019
Next review due: 1 August 2022