I recently spoke with a woman who developed cellulitis (a very serious bacterial infection in either the skin or tissues) as a result of her lymphedema. Understandably, she was scared and filled with questions. If you develop cellulitis, you didn’t do anything wrong. The risk is there for all of us who have lymphedema.
So here’s a bit of information I thought I’d pass on.
If you develop cellulitis because of your lymphedema, it’s very important to get medical treatment right away! Cellulitis is a result of bacteria entering the body through a break in your skin, such as a cut or bug bite. Cellulitis is very serious and can spread rapidly so medical attention is a must. Some physical signs of cellulitis include the infected area becoming:
- Tender or painful
- Hot to the touch
Sometimes your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic you can take at home and other times you might be admitted to the hospital for stronger treatment. It all depends on how severe the infection is. One thing is for sure, cellulitis is nothing to mess around with and without treatment, cellulitis can be life-threatening.
So Why Did You Get Cellulitis?
When you have lymphedema, your lymphatic system is compromised and slower at removing fluid from your tissues. This stagnant fluid is filled with waste your body is trying to get rid of and when bacteria gets into this fluid, it thrives. Since your lymphatic system cannot remove the bacteria quick enough, it can turn into cellulitis.
Unfortunately, once you experience cellulitis, you are at risk for it coming back again and again. Another big issue with cellulitis is it can cause more swelling. This can have lasting effects long after the infection has been treated and can move your lymphedema to another level.
Here’s What You Can Do To Try and Avoid Cellulitis
If you get a wound:
- If you have any type of breakdown to your skin such as a cut, scratch or even a bug bite, make sure to wash it daily with soap and water.
- Apply a protective cream or ointment such as Neosporin or raw organic coconut oil (which has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties).
- Use a bandaid or bandages to cover the wound area and change the dressing at least once a day or more if necessary.
- Watch for any sign of infection such as redness, additional swelling, pain or the area becoming tender and/or hot to the touch.
- Avoid needle sticks or blood draws on any at risk area.
- In the winter months, keep skin well moisturized so it doesn't dry out and crack. Use a PH balanced moisturizer. I love raw organic coconut oil & raw shea butter!
- In warmer climates, always use sunscreen and bug repellent to protect the at risk area. If you get a bug bite or cut of any kind, wash it and use antibacterial cream.
- Use gardening gloves when working outside.
- Shave all at at-risk areas with an electric type razor.
- Don’t cut your cuticles or skip manicures and pedicures altogether.
- Don’t get tattoos on the affected area.
- Use a thimble when sewing.
- Keep your lymphatic system working to the best of its ability.
- Wear Solidea Active Massage® compression garments to help keep lymph fluid moving.
Reminders For Keeping Your Lymphedema in Check
- Avoid blood pressure cuffs on the at risk area.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit time in hot water (showers & hot tubs).
- Wear non constricting clothing and jewelry.
- If you wear a bra, choose bras with thicker straps or use a bra strap cushion.
- If you have lymphedema in the arm, try to avoid carrying your purse or heavy bags with the affected arm. If both arms are involved, try and keep things light.
- Wear Solidea Active Massage® garments when exercising, doing any repetitive motion, during strenuous activity and during air travel.
- Use common sense, it is your best weapon!