The lymphatic system transports a fluid called lymph. Lymph fluid will contain various cells and substances that the body no longer needs. Lymph passes through small oval structures called lymph nodes. These filter out unwanted substances. Cancer can travel in lymph fluid and can spread to other areas of the body.
Lymphoedema is swelling that develops due to a build-up of lymph in the body’s tissues. It is a condition that may occur following surgery or radiotherapy to the groin area. It can cause the scrotum and legs to swell. This can be temporary and may improve as the body heals but can sometimes be permanent.
Lymphoedema will need to be assessed by a specialist medical team and you should be referred to local services for management of the condition. Treatment for lymphoedema may involve special types of skin massage, to promote the movement of lymph fluid, compression bandages and support garments. Treatment will need to be given regularly over a period of months and sometimes permanently.
To help prevent lymphoedema and reduce the risk of infection occurring it is extremely important to ensure meticulous skin hygiene and care. Washing the area with an emollient wash may help and supportive garments like cycle shorts or other lycra type briefs, jock straps, or speedo swimming briefs, may help reduce scrotal swelling.
- Try and avoid scratches or bites on the legs, for instance from insects (use insect repellent) or pets. Try and keep vulnerable areas covered if possible. If you do get a cut or scratch no matter how small, it is advisable to wash it with soap and water and use an antiseptic cream to try and prevent any infection. If the area becomes red, painful, or swollen you will need to see your doctor urgently to rule out possible infection and you may need to be prescribed antibiotics.
- Avoid sunburn to the area. Ensure a high factor sun is used if the area is going to be exposed to strong sunlight. Avoid extremes of temperature to the area.
- Use an electric razor rather than a wet shave to shave personal areas.
- Avoid vaccinations and injections in the affected leg or tattoos. This includes complementary treatments such as acupuncture.
- To maintain a healthy blood circulation which will help stimulate the movement of lymph fluid you should try and avoid wearing tight garments such as socks or trousers that may restrict blood flow. You should also avoid becoming overweight and standing still or remain on their feet for excessive periods of time.
- Try and remember to move perform leg exercises (moving the legs) every so often and avoid keeping them crossed for long periods of time. This will help prevent lymph fluid build-up and reduce the risk of potential blood clots from occurring.
The following websites have useful information about lymphoedema.
Reviewed November 2023