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Don’t Sweat It: Keep Your Prosthesis Clean and Your Skin Healthy

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Because limb loss means reduced skin surface, the body’s natural cooling system – sweating – is less efficient. When the residual limb is enclosed within a socket, perspiration, or sweat, cannot naturally evaporate. You are not only feeling the “heat,” but excessive sweating leads to wet skin and liners, followed by a loose fit and reduced suspension of your prosthesis. You are also susceptible to bacterial build-up within the socket/interface leading to infection and skin breakdown.

To ward off these potential problems, the residual limb and the prosthesis must have daily care – all year round.

Wash your residual limb with warm water and medicated soap at least once a day. In hot weather, consider washing it twice a day. The soap should be unscented and uncolored. After the skin is completely cleaned, it should be fully rinsed in warm water, since any remaining soap film contributes to skin irritation. Towel dry gently, but completely.

Use skin creams and lotions only on a limited basis. Petroleum-based or animal fat-based creams especially can damage many socket interface systems. Those who regularly experience dry skin might try applying an unscented skin lotion on the residual limb before going to bed. In the morning, however, it’s important to wash the limb to prevent lotion residue from damaging the liner system. Again, make sure your residual limb is completely dry before donning the socket interface.

An unscented antiperspirant spray can be used to control sweating. If an over-the-counter antiperspirant is not effect, a prescription can be obtained for something stronger. Consult your prosthetist about this.

Clean your socket. Using a medicated soap and warm water, thoroughly wet, lather, scrub, and rinse the entire surface of the socket. The socket should be completely dried with absorbent towels and allowed to ventilate overnight.

Careful care is also necessary for the material that comes into contact with your skin – whether it’s a wool sock, a gel liner, or some other insert. They should be changed more often in hot, humid weather. They also need to be cleaned daily.

Socks can be washed by machine or by hand using warm water and a mild, non-bleach detergent. Again, rinse well in warm water and squeeze (not wring) excess water from the socks. The rinsing is just as important as the washing because any trace of soap residue can irritate skin tissue. Socks also hold sweat, so change them often; always keep a clean, dry pair handy.

Roll-on gel cushion and locking liners should be cleaned with the gel side facing out, using warm water and soap. Rinse all soap residue, and dry the liner with a fresh, lint-free cloth.

If you have any questions about the condition of your skin or notice any abrasion, blister, fungus or other skin irritation, consult us before a minor problem becomes a disabling situation. Likewise, if you have any questions about cleaning your interface, or if you think your prosthesis is not fitting correctly, don’t hesitate to contact us for help.