Lymphedema is a condition where the person has excess fluid retention in the lymphatic system. This may occur due to an infection or due to obstruction of the lymphatic system. There are many ways to deal with this condition. Although there is no fixed method or line of treatment, one of the ways of treating this condition is with the help of compression garments. These garments help mitigate the symptoms to a considerable extent. Given below are details about how these garments work and how to maintain them.
How do Lymphedema Compression Garments Work?
When a person suffers from lymphedema, he needs to do certain appropriate exercises. This is because exercising helps to stimulate the flow of lymph. However, while exercising, he needs to wear compression garments so that the change in tissue pressure forces the lymph back into the lymphatic vessels. In lymphedema, the pressure of the edema tends to stretch the skin to an extent where the muscle does not have any firm surface to contract against. Thus, the compression garment acts as a new firm skin for the muscles to contract against. If the person does not have any compression garment, then the skin will stretch and the force of the muscle that is supposed to push the lymph into the lymph vessels, will not be translated onto the vessel wall.
How to Use and Care for Lymphedema Bandages?
Garments need to be changed twice a day, irrespective of whether they are compression sleeves or compression stockings. This is because these garments are made of elastic materials that tend to stretch out if they are worn for twelve hours at a stretch. The areas where there is more of flexing, like the knee and the elbow, tend to get stretched out even more. One also needs to wash them daily as this helps them to retain their elasticity and also removes any of the dirt that may have accumulated.
As discomforting as it may be, one needs to wear these bandages 24 hours a day. In fact, in the first few months of treatment, one shouldn't remove the garment for more than half an hour. This is because the skin gets stretched and allows rapid accumulation of lymphatic fluid if there is no compression. Thus, one needs to wear these compression garments till the skin and the subcutaneous tissue manage to remodel themselves to a smaller size. This will not occur until the skin is allowed to stretch significantly, which could take 6 months to a year. Once the limb has remodeled, only then is it advisable to remove the garment for longer periods of time without worrying about swelling of the limb and other symptoms.
You need to ensure that your garments aren't put in the dryer, as this may ruin the elasticity and make them shrink. Compression garments are best air dried, without excessive exposure to the sun. A person who has lymphedema is not advised to go in the sun for a long time, as the heat may lead to dilation of the blood vessels, which may lead to more blood reaching the extremities, thus, causing an increase in the swelling.
Lymphedema garments are designed to help considerably reduce the swelling of the extremities. However, it is effective only if worn at all times. If you do not feel that there is any significant change in the swollen limb even after using them, then it is best to visit a doctor and inform him about this, so that he may guide you about what to do next.