When patients are treated for lymphedema the initial phase of the treatment is to remove the excessive protein-rich liquid from the tissue. This is accomplished through therapeutic sessions using manual lymph drainage (MLD) or for more advanced stage lymphedema Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). Next comes the use of compression garments for lymphedema.
Compression garments for lymphedema help to compensate for the decrease in the elasticity of the skin caused the swelling. The garment, by applying a specific amount of pressure reduce the opportunity for fluid to collect and cause pain and stiffness.
The benefit to patients in using garments over bandages is they are less conspicuous and streamlined and designed for daily wear. Unlike bandages they are not bulky and typically are designed as pull-on types of garments for the legs, arms, hands and feet. For the core body, particularly for breast cancer patients, bras and vest are typically used.
It is essential for patients to understand that compression garments for lymphedema are not designed to reduce existing swelling but to provide compression to prevent additional swelling.
Some of the new technology involved in the design and construction of compression garments can help stimulate the removal of fluid, which is a very positive step in both short and long term treatment and management.
These garments should only be worn as part of a full therapeutic lymphedema treatment and should never be selected or worn without the advice of a certified lymphedema therapist (CLT) or medical professional.
Your CLT will also be essential in properly fitting compression garments for lymphedema and ensuring the compression class with the garment is correct for the needs of the individual
Factors to Consider
Once you have met with your CLT and have been fitted, you will then be able to purchase your own compression garments for lymphedema. Many people choose to buy at least 2 of any product, allowing you to have the option to alternate for washing purposes.
Talk to your CLT about your lifestyle and ask for recommendations for brands, styles and compression classes of compression garments. There are some brands that are designed for more active lifestyles and are more comfortable if you have to sit or stand for long periods of time.
In the summer months or in warm climates look for compression garments for lymphedema described as moisture wicking and breathable. This will provide you with comfort even on the hottest days of the year.