Brandy Mckeown, CEO of the International Lymphedema and Wound Training Institute, is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist and Training Instructor. She is nationally recognized as an expert in the field of lymphedema. She shares her expertise on ways for people with lymphedema to recognize and prevent cellulitis.
The Lymphatic System is a multi-faceted system that not only gets rid of 100% of the fluid from the tissues of our body (reducing swelling), it is initiates the immune response for fighting infections and healing wounds.
Cellulitis is a sudden onset infection of the skin and soft tissues. Approximately 25% of patients with lymphedema can develop it. The infection may enter via a break in the skin, insect bite, through a preexisting ulcer/wound or other area of inflammation. The onset of cellulitis is not always identifiable and may occur without any forewarning or opening of the skin.
These infections can be very dangerous and need to be treated as first signs of onset by medical professional. The more involved the cellulitis becomes, the more it can further damage the lymphatics. It’s important that all patients with lymphedema know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of cellulitis and ways to prevent it.
Signs and Symptoms of Cellulitis:
- Fever and chills
- The swollen area becomes red or develops a rash
- The swollen area becomes warm or hot
- Muscle aches
- Increased swelling
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Use a properly pH balanced soap (such as Dove) and moisturizer (such as Lubriderm or Eucerin).
- Clean any cuts, scratches, bites or breaks in the skin with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a band aid/wound dressing.
- Keep skin cleanser/alcohol pads and band-aids readily available to treat small cuts and breaks in the skin at first onset. A set in the car, at work and in a purse will make it easier to treat early.
- Prevent cuts and scratches, when able, by wearing leather gloves when gardening, wearing long sleeve pants and/or shirt when doing lawn care and using heat resistant pads/gloves when cooking.
- Control Athlete’s foot, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis—as these can all cause openings of the skin. You may need to discuss these conditions with your primary care physician.
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of cellulitis, take the following steps:
- See your physician immediately.
- If your physician is not available go to a convenient care clinic or the ER.
- DO NOT ignore these symptoms as these infections at times can become severe rapidly.
- Remove compression until you have actively started treating the cellulitis with antibiotics. You may resume compression as soon as you begin the antibiotics and can tell they are effectively treating the cellulitis.
- If you are prone to frequent cellulitis, or if you have had a severe case of cellulitis, we recommend having a prescription of antibiotics readily available (especially when traveling). Discuss this with your primary care physician.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with lymphedema or looking to learn more about the condition, Juzo has resources available via helpful articles and our Dear John series. You can learn more about the benefits of compression therapy on JuzoUSA.com. Talk with your therapist or authorized Juzo dealer to find products that will work for you!