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Compression garments

Compression garments

How do compression garments work?

Compression garments play three important roles in lymphedema:

  • Contain edema
  • Reduce fibrosclerotic tissue
  • Replace intensive phase bandages

They work in three distinct ways:

  • They compress the edematized area to contain edema
  • They allow fluid to move to a better-drained area
  • They support muscle work, making the muscle pump more efficiently.

Your healthcare professional will prescribe the level of compression required for your affected limb, taking into account any underlying conditions. Caution should be exercised in cases of arterial insufficiency, neuropathy, uncontrolled heart failure, acute cellulitis, or acute thrombophlebitis.

Compression classes are as follows:

  • Class 1 (18-21 mmHg) : medical store, pharmacy, sports store
  • Class 2 (23-32 mmHg) : medical store, pharmacy, sports store
  • Class 3 (34-46 mmHg) : medical store
  • Class 4 (> 50 mmHg) : medical store

Generally, teamwork between the therapist and orthotist fitter will determine the garment that’s right for you. They will choose from:

  • Made-to-measure OR ready-to-wear garments
  • Circular knit OR flat knit (ideal for lymphedema)
  • Daytime compression garments
  • Non-elastic velcro garments (with decongestive action)
  • Nightwear
  • Sports or post-surgical compression garments
  • Compression undergarments

How do I know if my garment fits properly?

It is vital that your garment fits properly. If it doesn’t, you’ll injure yourself or stop wearing it, exposing yourself to serious complications.

  • The garment must be comfortable, without pressure points, and the right length.
  • Ask your fitter about the warranty period for your garment. As a general rule, you have 10 working days to return an ill-fitting or faulty garment.
  • If your lymphedema is complex – with significant limb deformity or hard-to-reach areas such as genital lymphedema, for example – seek out an experienced orthotist fitter to measure you.

As you can see, your care team is made up of the physician for diagnosis and prescription, the therapist for decongestive treatment, and the orthotist-adjuster for maintenance. Don’t forget that you are the person at the center of this team. So try to clearly express your needs and your appreciation of the garment designed for you. Present supporting photographs to show any irritation or possible tourniquet on the skin.

Assemble your team and become the link between the various parties involved. You have everything to gain!

To find an orthotist-adjuster in your community, consult the LAQ Resource Guide.

« Is it time to renew my compression garment? »

The synthetic fiber in compression garments wears out naturally over the months. For this reason, your daytime compression garment should be renewed every 4 months, while your nighttime garment and non-elastic velcro garment should be renewed once a year. This frequency is based on what science tells us. So don’t neglect these purchases, for which the RAMQ program covers up to 75% of the cost.

Unless renewed regularly, a garment with less effective compression can cause increased swelling, expose you to more heaviness and discomfort, and ultimately lead to poor lymphedema control.

Since forgetting is human, the LAQ has come up with a solution! The LAQ has teamed up with the Association des orthésistes prothésistes du Québec (AOPQ) to create a reminder card for renewing your garments. When your fitter is a member of the AOPQ, he or she can send you a friendly reminder by e-mail or regular mail, inviting you to renew your garments on time. That is, before they no longer optimally control your lymphedema. Ask your fitter to sign you up for this reminder system.

Additional information on compression