Education of patients is so essential, particularly following surgery to remove lymph nodes, that it could be named the fifth element of lymphoedema treatment. Some essential do's and don'ts are listed here, though these are by no means comprehensive.

DO's and DONT's

Avoid any injuries to the skin because these can cause infections.

Avoid mosquito bites as they can cause infections.

Use caution when exercising - avoid movements that overstrain.

Avoid heat - very hot showers, hot packs on your extremity, sunbathing and the use of saunas could have a negative effect on your lymphoedema.

Avoid extreme changes in temperature (hot/cold), massages ("Swedish") on your affected extremity.

Avoid cosmetics that irritate the skin.

Inform all health care personnel that you have lymphoedema - injections / acupuncture in you affected extremity should be avoided.

Take Blood pressure on the extremity free of lymphoedema.

Nutrition is important - although there is no special diet, most nutritionists recommend a low salt, low fat diet. Obesity may have a negative effect on your swelling.

Travel - avoid mosquito-infected areas, when traveling by plane apply an additional bandage on top of your pressure garment.

Clothing - clothing that is too tight may restrict the proper flow of lymph. Avoid tight bras, panties or socks and make sure your jewelry fits loosely.

See your doctor - if you have any signs of an infection (fever, chills, red and hot skin), fungal infections or if you notice any other unusual changes that may be related to your lymphoedema.

General Tips - always wear your compression garments during the day and if necessary your bandages at night; elevate your extremity as often as possible during the daytime; perform your exercises daily and always consult your doctor or therapist should you have any questions about your lymphoedema.

Allison Dendy. All unauthorized reproduction is forbidden.