Managing Lymphedema Symptoms in Winter
For many of us, winter means cold, dark days. Obstacles like snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can make life hard, especially for those with lymphedema. So, what are the best ways to handle your lymphedema symptoms in the winter?
The good news is, while winter may pose some unique challenges, it also eliminates others that can be especially problematic for patients suffering from lymphedema. Biting insects are far less of a threat, for instance. Depending on where you live, the threat of tick or mosquito bites is all but nil in the winter. While these pests may seem like mere annoyances to other folks, for a lymphedema sufferer a small cut or bite can escalate into a potentially serious infection with alarming ease.
An End to Certain Seasonal Challenges
Similarly, overheating and sunburn are unlikely to pose a problem in winter. Since overheating is less of a concern, many patients report being more faithful about wearing their compression garments, as directed by their medical professionals. The more consistently you wear your compression items, the better your control over the progression of your condition will be.
On the other hand, we now know that regular exercise is beneficial for lymphedema symptoms. So, the wicked winter weather may conspire against you to prevent you from exercising regularly. Of course, there’s always bundling up to take a winter stroll or to get in some cold-weather jogging. And many people have the option to workout indoors at a nearby gym. If that’s not an option, perhaps you could consider indoor walking at a local mall.
Don’t Use Winter as an Excuse — Keep Moving!
Another problem many lymphedema patients struggle with is overheating and excessive sweating in summer. Winter tends to solve those problems for most people in the U.S. Unless you live in South Florida or Southern California, you are unlikely to suffer from overheating out of doors in the winter. Nor is the threat of sunburn a particular concern in winter.
That’s not to say you should avoid applying sunscreen if you expect to be out for extended periods. Depending on the altitude where you live, not to mention the latitude, it’s still entirely possible to suffer UV damage, even in winter. But given that you will likely be bundled up, the threat of sunburn damage is relatively small.
Humidity is typically much lower in winter, too. This also works in your favor, as sticky, humid weather can quickly make wearing your medical-grade compression wear uncomfortable. Some patients may even avoid wearing their compression garments as directed on hot, humid days. Keep in mind that lymphedema is chronic — and progressive. While there is presently no way to reverse lymphedema, we do know how to limit its progression. Namely: You must wear your compression garment(s) as directed. For most patients, that’s going to mean all day long — every day. As you can see, in many ways, winter can actually be the season when the living is easier for lymphedema patients.
Compression Wear in Winter
The cooler weather encountered in winter should actually make it more comfortable to wear your compression garments. With any luck, they’ll help keep you warm and comfortable on especially chilly days. That last bit is important, too. There’s evidence that extreme cold, much like excessive heat, can make lymphedema symptoms worse, by altering blood flow in the body. In essence, when the body becomes dangerously cold, blood flow to the extremities may be curtailed in order to preserve body core temperature. This could result in still worse drainage of lymph in the affected areas.
Extreme alterations in your daily activity patterns can also cause problems. Shoveling heavy snow, for instance, can trigger heart problems among people who may have underlying cardiovascular issues. Shoveling tends to be strenuous, and the desire to reach a certain goal, such as clearing an entire driveway, could entice you to work a bit harder, for longer stretches, than you might otherwise do.
If you must engage in such an activity, take it slowly, and take frequent breaks. Be aware that “overuse,” meaning engaging vigorous exercise that goes beyond what you are accustomed to can actually trigger lymphedema symptoms among people at risk for the condition. Exercise is beneficial, but it must be of no more than moderate intensity or duration.
Skin Care in Winter
Finally, it’s important to note that skincare becomes especially crucial in winter. People with lymphedema must be extra careful to avoid chapping. Skin in affected areas is probably already somewhat compromised and may be susceptible to weather-related damage. Cover any exposed skin when venturing out, and apply appropriate moisturizers frequently.
Winter-Ready Compression Wear Options
Fortunately, Lymphedema Products features numerous products that are suitable for use in winter. These items are both fashionable and practical. Examples include Thigh-High Compression Garments for people managing lymphedema of the leg(s). Consider ExoStrong or ExoSoft, from Solaris, available in neutral beige or black. BSN Jobst also offers an extensive line of medical legwear and support wear, including for Men Medical Legwear.
These stockings look like ordinary socks, so men can get the graduated compression therapy they need without drawing undue attention. For women, BSN Jobst offers a variety of options, including the attractive UltraSheer Medical Legwear stockings in diamond weave. These are just a few examples of our extensive collection of season-appropriate stocking options. Learn more about our thigh-high items and knee-high options.
For patients with upper extremity lymphedema, we offer a wide range of winter-appropriate items such as arm compression sleeves in a wide range of patterns and colors, from various trusted manufacturers. The LympheDIVAs line of products includes innovative and playful patterns, including compression sleeves, sleeve and gauntlet, and sleeve and glove sets. Men can join in the fun with the LympheDUDEs line, which features whimsical or merely decorative options.