Preventing lymphoedema 

It’s not possible to completely prevent lymphoedema, but the following steps may help reduce your chances of developing the condition.

If you already have lymphoedema, this advice may stop it getting worse.

Skin care

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
  • moisturising the skin daily to keep it supple – your GP can prescribe a suitable cream
  • avoiding very hot baths and showers – the heat from saunas, steam rooms and sun beds may also increase the swelling
  • using sun cream 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 – but make sure you tell them you have lymphoedema
  • wearing shoes that fit correctly and provide support on the top of your feet, 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 

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you develop symptoms of a possible skin infection, such as redness and a feeling of heat in the skin.

Healthy lifestyle

Adopting a healthy lifestyle may also help reduce your risk of developing lymphoedema, and may help control the condition if you already have it.

This includes:

  • eating a healthy diet
  • maintaining a healthy weight  use our healthy weight calculator to work out whether you are a healthy weight for your height
  • exercising regularly

Read more about healthy eatinglosing weight and exercise.

Page last reviewed: 20/10/2014

Next review due: 20/10/2016