Mani/Pedi-mania: lymphedema nail care

My manicurist, Ligia, painting within the lines much better than I could ever do. Yes, I took this photo with one hand.

Every Sunday afternoon I treat myself to a manicure. Sure, it helps keep me from snagging my compression stockings by maintaining well-groomed nails. But I’m also more Jackson Pollock than DaVinci with polish, so it’s best left to the professionals. Besides, the hot towel and hand massage are the real joy anyway.

As for my pedicure needs, however, I’m on my own. Aside from my innate aversion to showing my feet in public (that pre-dates lymphedema) and my highly ticklish nature, getting a pedi is something to be highly cautious about for those of us with leg lymphedema.

Here’s why a pedicure isn’t worth it for me:

  • Risk of Infection. No matter how clean the nail salon claims to be, my beautician would have to take a Silkwood shower and Adrian Monk would have to give the salon four stars before I let anyone get near my lymphedema-affected limbs. Call me paranoid, but I haven’t had a cellulitis infection yet. I’d like to keep it that way.
  • Logistics. I can’t stand or sit without the help of compression stockings, otherwise my legs begin to ache and swell – even for the 45 minutes to an hour it would take to have a pedicure. In a professional nail salon, you are seated upright while your legs soak in warm water – that’s pretty much my lymphedema equavelent of water boarding.
  • Nobody ever sees my feet. I wear closed toe full pantyhose compression stockings pretty much every waking moment.

So what do I do? I take care of it myself. Every couple weeks I take a file to my toe nails; buff off the rough skin of my feet; and if I’m feeling really sassy, I’ll splash on some clear polish. I never cut my cuticles (infection risk alert).

Meticulous skin care is vital for those of us with lymphedema. So is looking and feeling our best.

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