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How do I care for my skin – lymphoedema, lipoedema and venous disease

This article provides information on why you should care for your skin when you have chronic oedema.

“Skin care involves good habits and a little bit of self-love. Rubbing some cream into your skin only takes 10 seconds every day.”

What will I learn about?

Tips to care for my skin.

Who is this for?

Anyone with long term swelling.

Time to read

5 minutes to read.

How do I care for my skin?

To maintain healthy skin:

  • Have pride in your appearance. Your skin is your external armor. It is worthwhile investing in some skin care creams to help your skin look its best. If you wear pressure garments and a “dust” storm of skin appears when you take you garments off – then this is a warning sign to you that you skin is dehydrated and not adequately exfoliated.
  • Having good skin takes a little time and good habits. Everyday after your shower, quickly apply some cream. It takes about 10 seconds to do this. Over a few months to years – the impact then becomes obvious.
  • Avoid soap, as it can dry out the skin. Use soap-free or pH-neutral body washes, such as the MooGoo skin cleaners.
  • Moisturize your skin every day with an unscented moisturiser. Avoid creams that have chemicals in them. After a bath or shower, apply moisturizer to enhance absorption.
  • Thoroughly dry between your toes to prevent tinea. Antifungal cream should be used to treat any tinea. Toe nails should be cut by a Podiatrist.
  • To avoid sunburn, stay covered in the sun and apply sunscreen.
  • Avoid cuts, bruises, knocks, and skin scratches
  • Wear compression garments if you need them as this helps support the skin
  • Use a depilatory cream or an electric razor to remove hair from your legs.  Hand razors, epilators, and wax can lead to skin tears and infections.
  • Avoid uneven pressure around your limbs, such as crossing your legs or wearing really tight underwear or jewelry.

Particularly;

  • Avoid having injections in the swollen limb
  • Avoid blood samples, blood pressure readings, or intravenous drips on your ‘at-risk’ limb if post cancer or in your swollen limb if you already have swelling
  • Avoid insect bites by using alcohol-free insect repellents
  • If you toes look like you are fungal nail infection, do not ignore your little toes! Go and see your Doctor, Pharmacist or a Podiatrist.
  • Do not ignore wounds or weeping skin
  • Avoid bare feet, especially when outside, and wear well-fitting shoes
  • Consider ways to protect your skin, such as wearing protective clothing or gloves when gardening or rubber gloves when washing dishes or gardening.
MooGoo Skin cream

Why should I care for my skin?

When you have long term swelling, your skin will be more at risk of infections (known as cellulitis), wounds or other skin changes. Cellulitis can be life threatening if not treated proactively and requires antibiotic care within the first 24 hours.

In lymphoedema, skin changes can include:

  • Hyperkeratosis – a thickening of the stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin), often associated with a keratin abnormality.
  • Lymphorrhea – lymph fluid leaking through the skin
  • Pitting swelling causing fragile skin
  • Fibrosis – where the skin and tissues become hard
  • Fatty tissue laydown
  • Dry skin

In lipoedema, skin changes can include:

  • Fat fibrosis
  • Dry skin

In venous disease, skin changes can include:

  • Haemosiderin staining – the skin becomes dark
  • Venous leg ulcers
  • Fibrosis and tightening of the skin
  • Dry skin
Hyperkeratosis before treatment

This lady is 64 years old who developed lymphoedema after cancer of her uterus. Before treatment for lymphoedema this patient has hyperkeratosis on their right foot. You can see the darkened skin on her foot.

Hyperkeratosis after treatment

This treatment shows the results after treatment. The hyperkeratosis is greatly improved!

Treatment included manual lymphatic drainage, skin care, compression bandages, and exercises for four weeks. The patient was treated 5 days a week during the treatment period.

Images from Kaba H, Bakar Y, Ozdemir OÇ, Sertel S. Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy Treats Skin Changes like Hyperkeratosis Caused by Lymphedema. Case Rep Dermatol Med. 2012;2012:416421. doi: 10.1155/2012/416421. Epub 2012 Jul 1. PMID: 23259083; PMCID: PMC3504216. This is an open access paper. Read for FREE here.