Daily Care of Your Residual Limb
by Amber Henson, on Oct 26, 2020
Did you know that the skin is your body’s largest organ? It is also your frontline defense against infection and disease. Daily care and cleansing are essential to maintaining healthy skin, especially when that skin is in contact with a prosthetic liner or socket for many hours a day. Consistent, thorough hygiene and a well-fitting prosthesis should keep skin elastic and healthy.
In addition, it’s important to have intact, healthy skin when you show up to your prosthesis fitting. We cannot fit patients with a prosthesis who have un-healed wounds or scabs on their limbs, or limbs that have excessive swelling.
- Closely monitor the look and feel of the skin on your residual limb. If a sore or unusual skin condition develops, notify your prosthetist, therapist or physician immediately. Any prolonged redness, bruising, scabs or blisters should be reported so that it can be determined if your prosthetic device needs an adjustment.
- Each day wash your residual limb with soap and rinse thoroughly to remove any soap film. Dry your limb completely before donning (putting on) your prosthesis.
- Keep the skin well moisturized to help prevent chafing and other surface abrasions that can be caused by the pressure of wearing a socket. However, don’t use lotions or creams that are petroleum-based because they can cause thinning of the skin, which may allow abrasions or cuts to occur while wearing the prosthesis. In addition, petroleum-based moisturizers can interact negatively with your socket. Instead, apply a lotion or cream that is recommended by your prosthetist (for example, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Fragrance Free Hand Cream).
- Do not apply your prosthetic device until the lotion has completely soaked into the skin unless directed differently by your prosthetist. The best time to use the lotion is before going to bed at night when you won’t be wearing your prosthesis.
- Limit use of strong disinfectants such as iodine or alcohol on your residual limb because they can dry out your skin.
- If your residual limb perspires excessively, ask your prosthetist about trying a prescription antiperspirant specifically for prosthesis users. Although rarely required, Botox injections can be an option for reducing focal hyperhidrosis by stopping the nerve signals responsible for sweating.
- Inspect your residual limb when removing your prosthesis for red areas, rashes, or signs of skin breakdown. It is normal to see mild redness when removing the prosthesis. However, if a red area does not disappear in 20 minutes, consult with your prosthetist (or therapist) so that adjustments can be made to your socket.
- It is crucial to monitor your skin so that you can catch any issues before they develop into real problems – especially in the first month or so after you receive your device, while you are increasing your wear time and tolerance for the device. Be sure to pay special attention to the areas around the edges of the socket and the frame.
- If you have damaged skin, such as burns or scars, or grafted skin, please be extra sure to heed the above advice and monitor your skin carefully.
- All the advice above is the same regardless of your amputation level — from partial hand injuries to shoulder-level. Hand injuries might be more sensitive because of bony prominences and/or nerves, but the skin care should be the same.
What tips do you have for how to take care of your residual limb? Please share them with us and your fellow amputees in the comment section below. If you experiencing issues that are not mentioned above, or you would like help with any issues, please contact us.
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