Lymphedema refers to swelling that occurs when the lymphatic system is unable to adequately drain fluid, usually from an arm or leg. The most common cause of lymphedema is cancer. If cancer cells block lymph vessels, or lymph nodes are removed in cancer treatment, lymphedema may result.
There are various ways a doctor may treat lymphedema. A common treatment for lymphedema is for wearing compression garments. The experts at Pretty In Pink Boutique in Middle Tennessee share their Ultimate Guide to Compression Garments.
What Are Compression Garments?
Compression garments help reduce the swelling caused by lymphedema by adding pressure to the affected area. The pressure helps the trapped lymphatic fluid to flow through the lymph vessels. The compression garment also acts as an extra force for the muscles to work against, helping fluid drain out of the area.
For those suffering with lymphedema, a prescription is required for medical grade compression garments that must be professionally fitted.
How Should A Compression Garment Fit?
A medical-grade compression garment should always be fitted by a Certified Compression Fitter, like the pros at Pretty In Pink Boutique.
A fitting for a compression garment will include a compression fitter reviewing medical history, current skin conditions, and garment prescription to determine what level of compression is needed. The certified fitter will then measure the affected area and determine the garment size.
A compression garment should:
- Cover the entire affected area
- Be tight, but allow for normal movement
- Not have any baggy or loose areas
- Be comfortable, giving firm support that is not too tight
- Not cause any pain
Types of Compression Garments
Compression garments come in all different shapes, styles, fabrics, colors, and patterns.
Compression garments can be worn on almost any lymphedema-affected area of the body including but not limited to arms, legs, hands, wrists, face, head, neck, and breasts.
The fabric of a compression garment can affect its firmness and pressure depending on how the fabric is sewn.
Circular knit compression garments are sewn as a long tube of fabric that is sheer, soft, stretchy, and smooth. Circular knit fabric can be thinner than other compression fabrics, lacking stiffness. The fabric may rest in skin creases and may roll at proximal ends. This type of fabric can be dyed in various colors, generally has no seams, and typically comes as ready-to-wear garments rather than custom fitted.
Flat knit compression garments are manufactured as a flat piece of fabric and then constructed and sewn into the desired shape. Flat knit compression fabric is generally thicker and stiffer fabric than circular knit, and studier than both circular knit and cut-and-sewn. A seam is required to construct the garment, which can be a weak point in the design but comes in both ready-to-wear and custom-made garments. Flat knit garments are particularly suited to larger shapes.
Cut-and-sewn compression garments are just that; stretch fabric that is cut and sewn into the shape required. There is great flexibility in the designs that can be used. The fabrics vary in stiffness and can be lined if frail skin is involved or the garment passes over a vulnerable joint, such as the elbow crease. However, they often require zips for closing and have multiple seams that can be horizontal or vertical, which may cross the path of the lymphatic flow.
Firmness is determined by how much pressure the fabric causes. Pressure, in this case, is measured in mmHg and is specified by a variety of standards.
- Compression Class 1 (20-30 mmHg)
- Compression Class 2 (30-40 mmHg)
- Compression Class 3 (40-50 mmHg)
- Compression Class 4 (50-60 mmHg)
Patients with mild to moderate lymphedema will typically wear a Class 1 or 2 garment, whereas a patient with more severe lymphedema will wear Class 3 or 4.
Normal wear and tear of a compression garment will occur over time. Normal wash, sun, body oils, perspiration and stretching are all factors that can affect the life of your garment.
It is recommended to have two garments at once so that one can be worn while the other can be washed. Follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions to prolong the life of your compression garment.
The majority of manufacturers recommend that if garments are worn daily, washed regularly, and have two garments to alternate, the garment should last 4–6 months.
Get Fitted at Pretty In Pink Boutique
Pretty In Pink Boutique in Middle Tennessee has a caring team of Certified Compression Fitters and carries medical-grade compression garments.
If you are living with lymphedema, Pretty in Pink Boutique will walk by your side and offer products to make your journey as comfortable as possible. Contact us at 615-777-7465 or email us at [email protected] to schedule your appointment at one of our four Middle Tennessee Locations.