Lymphedema and COVID-19 – Risk
Lymphedema is not expected to increase your risk for COVID-19 infection – having lymphedema should neither increase your susceptibility to COVID-19 infection, nor increase the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
Generally speaking, COVID-19 complications tend to arise in people whose lung function is impaired, or in people who have a compromised immune system, and neither of which are commonly associated with primary or secondary lymphedema per se. While normal immune function can become impaired in lymphedematous limbs, this is a local immune dysfunction rather than a systemic one (whole body). Localized immune suppression increases the risk of local skin infection (cellulitis) but does not increase the risk of COVID-19 infection which targets the upper respiratory tract. Lymphedema is also not typically associated with an impairment in lung function, although in very rare cases of primary (hereditary) lymphedema, lung issues are possible – if this were the case for you, you are most likely already aware of it.
You may be at increased risk of the severe form COVID-19 infection if you have other chronic conditions such as: cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, or if you have a weakened immune system due to medications or treatment related to cancer (recent or on-going chemotherapy, for example).
Lymphedema COVID-19 – Management
For those who wear compression garments that cover the hand or wrist, keeping the garment free of contamination can be a challenge. To help, consider wearing a disposable glove over your compression glove when you are out and about. When you arrive at your destination wash both hands with your disposable glove still on to ensure that your non-gloved hand is clean, before removing and tossing out the disposable glove.
An important component of lymphedema management is exercise. Due to social distancing and self-isolation efforts your exercise routines may have changed. We recommend setting up a basic home exercise program to maintain cardiovascular fitness and lymphatic pumping.
Even though we are not currently available for in-clinic visits due to our COVID-19 related closure, we are available to help you with your self-management (self-massage techniques, home exercise programming,etc) by video call if you need support.