While there is still controversy as to the precise role compression sleeves and gloves play, recent research is encouraging, especially with prevention. Compression applied to the arm may reduce lymph flow from the hand. Even a normal lymphatic system works harder to drain lymph from the hand than other parts of the arm. This fact explains why hand lymphedema is often the most challenging to treat and why lymphedema specialists take great pains to prevent it. Concern that compression sleeves may inadvertently trigger hand lymphedema underlies the recommendation to always wear a compression gauntlet or glove with a sleeve.
Understanding Lymphedema or Lymphoedema
Lymphedema, also known as lymphoedema and lymphatic edema is swelling in tissues just beneath the skin due to build-up of lymph fluid in the body.
Lymph fluid is part of the lymph system that carries fluid and cells that help fight infections throughout the body. Sometimes this swelling develops quickly, or it may develop slowly over several months.
Lymph nodes act like a drain in your sink. If the drain is clogged, the fluid cannot drain. It usually happens in the arms or legs but can occur in other parts of the body. Did you know there is 600 lymph nodes in the human body? All these small nodes of the lymphatic system work to protect us from illness and damaging, disease-causing inflammation.
Lymphedema occurs because of a blockage in the lymphatic system.
LYMPHEDEMA AND LYMPHATIC DISEASES AFFECT MILLIONS AND CONCERN US ALL
Up to 10 million Americans, and hundreds of millions worldwide, suffer from lymphedema and lymphatic diseases.
There is no cure for lymphedema, but it can usually be managed successfully with massage therapy, wrapping, and compression to improve quality of life.
- Early-stage lymphedema can be treated with non-surgical interventions, including medication, a healthy diet and manual compression (compression garments).
- Advanced-stage lymphedema, a surgical intervention may be recommended.
Prevent and Manage Mild Lymphedema with Compression Garments
Compression Garments are also called Pressure Garments, Compression Sleeves and Lymphedema Sleeves or Stockings. They are made of elasticized fabric designed and created to put a controlled amount of pressure on different parts of the arm or leg to help move lymph and keep it from building up. The garment may need to be worn all day (during waking hours), when working, relaxing, and when you exercise. It is important to use compression garments during air travel because lymphedema can become worse at high altitudes.
Use and Key Benefits of Compression
Compression garments, such as sleeves, gloves, socks, etc. work by creating a pressure gradient, causing the flow of fluids away from the area where they are accumulating.
- Compression sleeves and stockings for the arms and legs relieve swelling.
- Compression pushes the fluid back into circulation by increasing the rate that the lymphatic fluid is filtered out of the soft tissue.
- Compression gives you external containment which prevents and helps control swelling.
Recent studies suggest that the regular wearing of a compression sleeve may not only control symptoms but may help prevent the development of lymphedema in the first place.
A compression sleeve or stocking fits tightly on your swollen arm or leg, helping the lymph fluid flow out.
Compression Sleeves usually extend from the wrists to the upper arms and come in several different styles and materials. Their purpose is to control your discomfort and relieve swelling.
Compression Gloves, such as fingerless gloves are often worn along with a compression sleeve. For some people, wearing a compression sleeve may result in more edema in the hand, which can be reduced by combining the sleeve with a glove.
Compression Sleeves and Gloves can help reduce the pain and swelling associated with lymphedema. Our compression sleeves, gloves and even socks are made to provide the best comfort and reduce painful symptoms.
Your doctor may suggest buying compression garments of a certain grade or level of compression. The grade or level will depend on the severity of swelling.
Levels of compression are measured in pressures of mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). The more compression you need, the higher the pressure should be.
The most commonly measurements of compression are:
- Class 1 (CCL 1) or Low: less than 20 mmHg
- Class 2 (CCL 2) or Medium: 20 – 30 mmHg
- Class 3 (CCL 3) or High: greater than 30 mmHg
Gradient compression also known as graduated compression or medical compression is most often recommended. Gradient compression is designed so that it’s tightest at the furthest point of the arm (at wrist) or leg (at ankle) and becomes gradually looser further up the limb.SHOP COMPRESSION THERAPY
As dr. Axe (draxe.com) describes it, “the lymphatic system has the primary role of protecting the body against outside threats – such as infections, bacteria and cancer cells – while helping keep fluid levels in balance.” So, if the lymphatic system is not working properly, fluid builds in your tissues and causes swelling, called lymphedema.
Lymphedema cannot be cured at this time, but its symptoms such as swelling, pain and discomfort can be improved with proper management and treatment.
In summary, a gauntlet or glove should be used in conjunction with compression sleeves when used for lymphedema prevention. For managing lymphedema or mild lymphedema a compression sleeve should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to minimize pain and prevent further swelling.
The information on page is presented for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the diagnosis, treatment, or advice of a qualified, licensed medical professional. The facts presented are offered as information only, not medical advice, and in no way should anyone infer that we are practicing medicine. Seek the advice of a medical professional for proper application of this material to any specific situation.
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