I have learned that there are a few things that are essential to me staying healthy and not getting sick with infections in my legs. It is a few basic things, not very time consuming or expensive.
- Skin care (legs)
- Skin cleansing (legs)
- Vitamins and minerals
Skin care (legs)
Most lymphedema patients are (hopefully) told this when they are first diagnosed with lymphedema: It is very important to take care of your skin in the area where you have lymphedema. It is so important because it contributes to preventing you from getting dry skin and being more lightly to get bacteria under your skin that can trigger infections.
My first physiotherapist told me that I had to put lotion on my legs every evening before going to sleep to keep my skin moist and flexible (and thereby stronger and more resistant). She recommended using a fat lotion without perfume.
I admit that I do not put on lotion every evening; I choose to prioritize different. I believe it is just as important to do my evening yoga or an evening walk in a forest to clear my head and all the other things that contributes to my lymphedema not worsening or reacting in a negative way to a stressful day. And sometimes I am simply too tired when I finish with these other things that I go directly to bed without using lotion. I do believe this is not a problem (for me) as long as my skin on my legs seems healthy and sufficiently moisturized. Instead of putting lotion on my legs every single evening, I put lotion on a couple of nights a week.
But I would always advise other with lymphedema to put lotion on as often as they can (preferably every night) as I myself was advised to do, because there is no doubt that it is important to keep your skin in good shape.
When you do use lotion, it is important to remember that you should never put the lotion on just before putting on the stockings. The lotion can ruin the fibres in the compression stockings. It is therefore smartest to put on the lotion in the evening, so the lotion can dry into the skin during the night.
Skin cleansing (legs)
I myself have struggled – unsually – much with erysipelas infections in my legs. I believe the way to prevent these infections is a combination of all the different things written about on this webpage, like improving the lymphatic flow by exercising or by using a compression pump. But besides all of these things I have been recommended by specialists to cleanse my legs a few times a week with a disinfecting body soap containing glycerine (in Denmark you can buy a product called “Medi-scrub”).
These kinds of soaps contain a certain amount of disinfecting chlorhexidine that effectively can get rid off bad bacteria and fungus on your skin. So the soap might help preventing unwanted bacteria to go into your skin and causing an infection.
I use Medi-scrub three-four times a week in the shower. I also use it at times where my skin on the legs seems to be a bit irritated or extra sensitive, for example if I have sweat a lot under my stockings during exercise.
Vitamins and dietary supplements
I have never believed much in taking a whole bunch of vitamin pills every morning. But not long ago I read an interview with a Danish doctor who really recommended taking just a few vitamins every day to make sure that the body had all the things it needed.
Because my immune system is weakened by my lymphedema I made a decision to try it out. It could not hurt, I thought.
I went to a naturopath to find out if my body was in need of any specific vitamin or mineral, rather than going down and buy a lot of different vitamins in the supermarket that might not do any difference for my body – or my immune system. Some of the things the naturopath said made sense to me, especially that my intestinal flora was in desperate need of help because of all the penicillin I have been on for so many years because of the infections in my legs. So I chose to give it a try and buy some things that she recommended.
It is not possible for me to prove that the different vitamins and dietary supplements have an actual effect on my body and my immune system. But I am going to do everything I can to give my body the best possible circumstances for getting stronger, so I will continue swallowing those few pills every day. At this point I take 4 different kinds of vitamins and dietary supplements every morning and every evening.
If you yourself is considering to take vitamins or dietary supplements, I would always advise you to go talk about trained health personel (or a professional naturopath) about this. This way you do not just fill your body with wrong or unneeded pills.