As you have now been diagnosed with lymphoedema the next step will be for you to see a lymphoedema therapist. If your lymphoedema is in your arm or leg, then you will be measured for a compression garment which will help to maintain your swelling to help keep control. This works by putting pressure on the tissues to stop fluid build-up and help the fluid drain from your affected area.
It is important to be fitted by someone experienced in selecting, measuring and fitting compression garments. Your lymphoedema specialist will do this for you. Compression garments are available in different grades of pressure depending on the degree of your lymphoedema. The specialist will request a prescription from your GP for an appropriate garment.
THEY WORK BY:
compressing the swollen tissues and stopping fluid from building up
helping to move fluid to an area that's draining well
allows the muscles to pump fluid away more effectively
Please be aware
Understanding compression can be confusing which is why you need to work with your lymphoedema specialist.
Compression can be made to measure or off the shelf, but I do recommend strongly that you need to be measured by a lymphoedema specialist as compression comes in a different class, size, strength and styles. They can also be flat knit or round knit or you could be given Velcro wraps.
Manufacturers are producing compression garments in different colours like the one above.
Unique to you
Compression garments should be made for you, using your exact measurements taken by a lymphoedema specialist. If your limb needs firmer support or has lost its shape due to your swelling, then you should receive a made to measure garment.
There is a tendency these days to discharge lymphoedema patients with a repeat prescription. If this happens and you feel your compression garment is not doing its job, then please ask to be remeasured.
Please be aware
As you can see from the above image this compression has wrinkled and slips down.
If your compression garment is too loose, it won't control the swelling and needs to be refitted. If it is too tight, it will restrict blood flow. If you get pins and needles, pain, or your toes change colour, maybe it's too tight. However, give your compression 5-10 minutes to see if your limbs settle down, if not remove straight away and contact your lymphoedema specialist for advice.
Other reasons why compression might not fit or becomes loose:
Limb becomes firmer after exercise
Whatever the reason this compression is not doing its job. You need to be remeasured.
Wear your compression daily
It is important to wear your compression garment all day, but it can usually be taken off at night when you are lying down and resting.
If you are travelling a long distance, especially by air, make sure you wear it for the full length of your journey and for some hours afterwards.
You should be given two garments so that you can have one in the wash while you wear the other. The manufacturer will supply washing instructions. With wash and wear, compression is estimated to last 4-6 months.
Exceptions to wearing compression daily
you have an infection (cellulitis)
the limb is large and irregular in shape
the skin is fragile or damaged
the skin is pitted or folded
leaking lymph fluid
Compression garments used incorrectly can be harmful, and won't help the swelling go down. The material can form tight bands across the skin and even damage it. If you are in doubt, ask your lymphoedema specialist for advice. Please remember the above are generalisations and you should be discussing these with your lymphoedema specialist.
Comfiwave Breast Band
This product was shown for the first time at the 8th National Lymphoedema (virtual) Conference, presented by Sue Lawrence, Clinical Nurse Specialist within the topic ‘Management of Breast Oedema’. (Sponsored by Haddenham).
As a patient and patient advocate, I rarely get excited when manufacturers introduce a new compression garment. This is because as a breast cancer patient, I have felt that my type of breast cancer related lymphoedema (BCRL) has not been catered for.
Putting on Compression
One of the main areas that our members struggle with is putting on compression but it need not be that way. Ordered on prescription by her clinic our Facebook Moderator Jackie demonstrated how much easier this is. This is suitable for both arm and leg compression garments.
Please note the photographs used in this web page were supplied by L-W-O Community Members and belong to L-W-O Community
You will find details on the Comfiwave Breast Band in Lymph Shop
Lymphoedema Framework, Template for practice compression hosiery in lymphoedema. London MEP Ltd, 2006 for Lower Limb Hosiery
Lymphoedema Framework Template for compression hosiery in upper body lymphoedema. 2009, Health Comm UK Ltd., Aberdeen
Big thank you to Adam Withey from Juzo UK for reading this and making suggestions on how I could improve some elements.
Please note: The advice on wearing compression may be about to change in relation to infections such as cellulitis. Waiting for the new joint BLS/LSN consensus document to be published. My understanding is the advice is changing.