Prevention - Lymphoedema

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 from getting worse.

Skin care

The part of your body affected by lymphoedema is more vulnerable to infection of the excess fluid.

Bacteria can enter your body through any cuts in your skin. It may quickly develop into an infection.

Skin infections can also damage your lymphatic system and cause lymphoedema.

You can reduce your risk of developing skin infections by:

  • not having injections or blood pressure readings in the affected area
  • treating cuts and scratches immediately with an antiseptic cream
  • using insect repellents to prevent insect bites
  • moisturising your skin daily, you can get a cream at your pharmacy
  • using sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF)
  • avoiding very hot baths and showers – heat from saunas, steam rooms and sun beds may increase the swelling
  • using an electric razor if you need to shave
  • wearing loose-fitting clothes

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you develop symptoms of a skin infection. These symptoms include redness or a feeling of heat in the skin.

Care for your arms and hands

  • Wear gloves for gardening and household tasks.
  • Do not wear tight-fitting jewellery.
  • Cut your nails with nail clippers.

Care for your legs and feet

  • Wear shoes that fit and have support on the top of your feet.
  • See a chiropodist for foot and nail care and tell them that you have lymphoedema.
  • Use anti-fungal powder to prevent fungal infections in your skin.

Healthy lifestyle

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

This includes:

Check your BMI on the SafeFood website


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021
Next review due: 25 March 2024

Talk to a breastfeeding expert