Learn How to Manage Lymphedema

By: Katherine Bunker

February 24, 2023


Katherine Bunker, Physical Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist (PT, DPT, CLT) at Renown, discusses how patients can manage lymphedema with changes to daily routines along with diet and exercise.

Lymphedema is a condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is a chronic and progressive disorder that results in swelling of the arms, legs, or other parts of the body due to an accumulation of lymph fluid. Lymphedema can occur because of cancer treatments, surgery, or other medical conditions.  

Managing Lymphedema

Treatments to help reduce symptoms such as pain, swelling and discomfort associated with lymphedema can include compression garments, exercise, skin care, manual lymphatic drainage and pneumatic compression. 

The goal is to avoid triggering the onset of lymphedema. Lymphedema can present itself immediately after surgery or radiation. It can appear months later or even years later. There are many factors that influence the development of lymphedema which is why prevention is so important. If you have had injury or disruption to your lymphatic system, then: 

  • Avoid injuries to the skin near the affected area. For example: wearing gloves during gardening, using bug spray to ward off mosquitos, covering your limbs while playing with pets, keeping nails clean and avoiding cutting too close to cuticle, utilizing electric razors at the armpit (instead of a traditional razor).,  
  • Avoid blood pressure readings to the affected limb or request blood pressure to be taken manually, not by a machine.  
  • Avoid heat like saunas, hot tubs, sunburns, hot packs, and even massages.   
  • Avoid tight jewelry like rings or bracelets, which can be too tight. 

Lymphedema Class

Katherine Bunker lymphedema specialist at renown

Lymphedema Class

For patients who have been diagnosed or are currently being treated for breast cancer. This class focuses on educating patients about the basic anatomy of the lymphatic system. 

Lymphedema and Nutrition

Certain foods can also worsen symptoms of lymphedema because they are processed with additives or high salt content. Eating high-sodium foods can cause fluid retention and inflammation, which can make lymphedema worse. Additionally, some processed foods contain artificial sweeteners or preservatives that may also worsen symptoms. To manage symptoms and reduce swelling, it is important for those with lymphedema to be aware of which foods may worsen their condition and take steps to avoid them. 

Certainly, see your doctor if you have signs of an infection (fever, chills, red and hot skin), or if you notice any itching, rash, fungal infections, or odd changes on the skin. Lymphedema can be managed at any time, but it’s best if it’s caught early.  

*Thank you to Moms on the Run for providing the Lymphedema Prevention and Education Class at Renown Health with compression sleeves for those who attend. 


Additional Information:

Learn more about Lymphedema visit the Lymphedema Treatment Act.

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