Lymphedema is a medical condition causing chronic swelling of the body. Doctors often recommend compression sleeves or stockings to reduce inflammation after the patient receives other therapy.
These sleeves are available in Lycra and nylon and should be worn every day under a medical professional’s direction. Compression sleeves may be bought without a prescription through a pharmacy or online store. Different sizes and elasticities are on the market to fit both men and women. Custom-designed sleeves may be special ordered for those who cannot find the exact model suggested buy their doctor.
Once available in only sterile white, compression sleeves now come in a variety of colors and styles. Some brands even offer zebra stripes, lace, festive designs and floral prints, which look more like a fashion statement than edema treatment. These newer versions are breathable and more comfortable than the old-school variety. Depending on the manufacturer, moisture wicking is also featured to prevent excess perspiration beneath the sleeve.
Trying to pull on these special garments may be challenging for those affected by hand and finger swelling or arthritis and the elasticity of compression. Donning gloves are helpful in putting sleeves on, allowing for better grip on both stockings and sleeves. Resembling dishwashing gloves, they are made of rubber and usually extend just above the wrist. Ridges on the exterior help catch the slippery, stretchy fabric, making it faster and easier to pull on.
Another product available that assists with putting on compression sleeves is a slide or slippie. The arm is placed into an oversized sleeve, then the compression sleeve is slipped over it. The slide is easily pulled out by hand or hooking it onto a fixed object, like a doorknob. The compression sleeve stays on the arm and the slide comes out.
For those with circulation or medication issues that result in easy bruising, slides and donning gloves also prevent fabric from snapping back against the skin while pulling and losing grip on sleeves.
Edema may be limited to the wrists and hands, making sleeves ineffective or cumbersome. Specially made gloves are worn in these cases. The fingertips or area beyond the knuckles are removed to allow for finger dexterity, mobility and functional grip. While fabric choices are usually limited to various shades of tan rubber or nylon, some manufacturers also offer colored Lycra material.
People with missing or damaged lymph nodes are most susceptible to lymphedema. This can be caused naturally or by surgery for cancer or other health problems. Common swelling areas include the arms and upper body, especially for breast cancer survivors. Risk for lymphedema is also hereditary, especially where poor circulation is a factor. In some remote parts of the world, a parasite called filariasis may cause the condition, as can cellulitis.
Lymphedema is sometimes called elephantiasis, or misnomered elephantitis, for the disfiguring effects in extreme cases.