Compression sleeves are garments made of a flexible fabric that exert greater pressure on its distal end thus establishing a gradual pressure on the tissues. Various types of sleeves are available in the market which are classified depending on the degree of compression they exert
Compression sleeves have been used for many years in medicine to improve blood and lymphatic circulation of the extremities. Several studies have confirmed that the use of compression garments is a great help in treating and preventing lymphedema.
The lymphatic system helps fight infections and other diseases by transporting lymph to the tissues.
Lymphedema is an edema that is caused by the obstruction of the lymphatic vessels, which causes the accumulation of lymph between the subcutaneous cells, and can affect all or part of a limb, greatly increasing its volume.
Types of lymphedema
Primary lymphedema: occurs because the lymphatic system cannot adequately transport proteins and other molecules contained in lymph so that they can be absorbed by the circulatory system. Lymphedema can be congenital (appear from birth or childhood) or be caused by a failure of the lymphatic system caused by an anatomical alteration of the lymphatic ducts caused by trauma, for example, a sprain (they are more frequent around 35 years).
Secondary lymphedema: it is usually associated with the existence of tumors that affect the ganglionic chains, such as breast, prostate, ovarian cancer, etc. It is more possible to develop as a result of a surgical procedure in which one or more nodes are removed or due to a radiotherapy treatment in which they are irradiated. In both cases, a failure in the lymphatic drainage and the obstruction of the channels can originate. Lymphedema can appear immediately, but also after a few years after cancer treatment.
Symptoms of lymphedema
It is important to recognize it in time to start treatment as soon as possible. The main symptoms are:
- Hardening and reddening of the skin
- Aches, tingling, numbness
- Less ability to move or flexibility in nearby joints (such as hands, wrists or ankles)
- Feeling that necklaces, rings, watches or bracelets tighten even though you have not gained weight
At first, raising the affected area may decrease swelling. But as time passes, the affected area may increase in temperature and become red, and the skin becomes hard and stiff.
Compression garments can help reduce the pain and swelling associated with lymphedema since they create a pressure gradient, which causes fluid flow out of the area where they are accumulating.
In the past, it was thought that the main function of compression sleeves was to control the symptoms of lymphedema and that active prevention was not possible. However, recent studies evaluated the regular use of compression sleeves (18 to 21 mm Hg) in women who underwent axillary lymph node dissection. It was evidenced that those who used compression sleeves had a lower incidence of lymphedema after 6 months of follow-up after surgery.
Compression sleeves generally extend from the wrists to the upper arms and come in different styles and materials.
Mode of use for Compression Sleeves
Wearing your compression sleeve can reduce pain and swelling, but the benefits may vary depending on when you wear it and if you have a sleeve that fits comfortably.
People vary how often they wear their compression sleeves. Most often, the sleeves are worn during the day and removed at night. However, for some people, rebound edema occurs when the sleeve is removed at night.
The most important time to wear the sleeve is during exercise, or when you experience the pressure changes associated with air travel.
Ideally, wear the compression sleeve every morning after bathing, since lymphedema is usually minimal when you wake up. Remember that your arm should be completely dry when putting on the sleeve.
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