How Do Lymphedema Wraps Work

Sep 10th, 2020

Breast cancer-related lymphedema is a common complication, affecting approximately 30% of breast cancer patients. It can become a potentially debilitating condition, which is why most doctors recommend compression therapy following breast surgery, especially for patients undergoing a lymphadenectomy as part of their cancer treatment. One of the most effective methods for applying compression is with lymphedema wraps.

compression wraps for lymphedema

What is Lymphedema?

The lymph (or lymphatic) system is a network of vessels, organs, and tissues that carry lymph throughout the body. As part of your immune system, the lymph system helps protect your body from illness-causing invaders, removes cellular waste, and maintains your overall body fluid levels. Damage to the lymph vessels and nodes, generally caused by blockages, infection, or disease, can significantly compromise your health.

Lymphedema is the build-up of fluid in your body’s soft tissues that occurs when the lymphatic drainage system is damaged or blocked. Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition when the body’s lymph system doesn’t develop properly. Secondary lymphedema, the more common type, is caused by trauma, such as cancer treatment, which disrupts the lymphatic drainage system.

Secondary lymphedema is usually caused by damage to or total removal of a person’s lymph nodes as part of cancer treatment. It often affects the arm or leg, causing one or both of the appendages to swell. If not addressed, lymphedema can limit mobility, lead to infection, and negatively impact an individual’s quality of life.

What Causes Lymphedema?

Lymphedema occurs when the lymphatic system cannot adequately drain lymph fluid. Unlike your blood vessels and cardiovascular system, lymph vessels do not have valves or a central pump (the heart) to pump lymph fluid around the body. This means that the lymph vessels rely on gravity and the massaging effect of muscle movement to stimulate lymph flow.

Lymphedema occurs when lymphatic fluid builds up in the soft tissues and causes uncomfortable swelling. Though any problem that blocks lymphatic vessels can lead to lymphedema, the condition is often seen in patients who have undergone breast cancer treatment that has removed or damaged the lymph nodes.

Individuals undergoing cancer treatment are at risk of developing secondary lymphedema (which is actually the most common form). Risk factors include:

  • Cancer surgery when lymph nodes or lymphatic vessels are damaged or removed
  • Radiation therapy
  • Infection
  • High white blood cell count in leukemia
  • Co-occurring conditions such as heart or vascular disease, eczema, or arthritis
  • Changes to the genome involving the lymphatic system

Although cancer treatment is the most common cause of damage to the lymphatic system in the U.S., not everyone with cancer will develop lymphedema. Also, individuals without a history of cancer can develop lymphedema if exposed to trauma damaging the lymph system.

Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema

Lymphedema symptoms may develop slowly over time or have a more sudden onset. Individuals at higher risk for lymphedema and those with a history of lymphedema who have recently experienced a recent injury or infection are more likely to develop symptoms rapidly.

Lymphedema symptoms and warning signs include:

  • Swelling of the arms or legs
  • Uncomfortable bodily heaviness
  • Burning or itching sensation
  • Feeling skin tightness when wearing clothing or jewelry
  • Noticeable skin thickening

If you have not yet seen swelling but are experiencing any of the following, you may be in the early stages of acute lymphedema.

  • Skin redness
  • Difficulty seeing or feeling veins in your hands or feet
  • Arm or leg appearing enlarged
  • Tight and inflexible joints
  • Unusually puffy skin

Compression for Lymphedema

Compression is the gold standard for the treatment for lymphedema. Compression works by applying gradient pressure to the affected limb, reducing the swelling caused by the buildup of lymph fluid. Though there is no cure for lymphedema, lack of compression can lead to discomfort and make lymphedema worse, which could lead to a serious infection such as cellulitis.

To manage symptoms of lymphedema, your healthcare provider or lymphedema therapist may recommend one of a variety of lymphedema products.

  • Compression stockings or socks for the leg
  • Compression sleeves for the arm
  • A fingerless glove or gauntlet without finger openings (often worn with a sleeve)
  • A support bra for your chest
  • A vest that covers your entire torso

Compressing the affected body parts increases the rate at which lymph fluid filters out of the body’s soft tissues. Compression massages the lymph fluid back into circulation, reducing swelling and discomfort. Compression also helps control swelling and reduce volume by externally containing the affected area.

Supportive garments such as compression stockings can provide support and relief at both the initial treatment phase and throughout the lymphedema management process. Compression bandages can be worn under compression garments and wraps for added pressure and to prevent irritation.

How Do Compression Wraps Work?

Lymphedema wraps work like other compression therapy products that apply gradient pressure to your limbs. The compression they create works to alleviate the swelling and discomfort caused by lymphedema. Lymphedema wraps fit snugly around the afflicted limb like sophisticated compression garments, but their increased adjustability allows you to tighten or loosen the pressure on specific areas to your comfort level.

Depending on the severity of your lymphedema symptoms, your treatment plan may require you to wear compression 24 hours a day or only during waking hours. If you need additional support while sleeping, try adding a light compression garment with 10-15 mmHg of pressure.

The Circaid JuxtaFit Ankle Foot Wrap offers comfortable and effective compression therapy for your lower limbs. The Juxta-Lock™ Band System allows for quick and easy application and minimal adjustments that help maintain compression levels. The cool, lightweight Breathe-O-Prene™ material uses limited linear stretch technology that contours to your foot and leg, offering gradient compression that can be adjusted for nighttime wear.

Lymphedema leg compression wraps like the Circaid JuxtaFit Legging are easy to slip on and off due to the patented JuxtaLock bandage system. They are also coated in an antimicrobial film and are 100% machine washable to reduce the risk of infection.

Know how the compression wraps Work

What Type of Compression is Right for Me?

Various compression lymphedema products and many degrees of compression are available. Most garments use mmHg (millimeters of mercury) to indicate compression or pressure level.

Compression garments typically come in Mild (8-15 mmHg), Medium (15-20 mmHg), Firm (20-30 mmHg), Extra-Firm (30-40 mmHg) compression levels. Get started on your lymphedema treatment plan by learning what compression level is right for you.

Mild Compression (8-15 mmHg)

  • Provides relief to tired or aching legs
  • Helps relieve minor swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Delays leg fatigue during long periods of standing
  • During pregnancy, helps prevent development of varicose and spider veins
  • Keeps legs healthy and energized

Medium Compression (15-20 mmHg)

  • Recommended for first-time compression sock users
  • Helps relieve tired, aching legs and minor swelling
  • Helps prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Used in post-sclerotherapy
  • Ideal compression for those traveling long distances

Firm Compression (20-30 mmHg)

  • Assists in treatment of moderate to severe lymphedema
  • Helps prevent moderate to severe varicose veins
  • Used in post-surgical and post-sclerotherapy treatments
  • Helps manage active ulcers and post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS)
  • Helps relieve superficial thrombophlebitis
  • Helps prevent orthostatic hypertension (sudden fall in blood pressure after standing)
  • Helps prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Extra Firm Compression (30-40 mmHg)

  • Helps in treatment of severe lymphedema
  • Helps prevent and relieve severe varicose veins
  • Used in post-surgical and post-sclerotherapy treatments
  • Prevents deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Assists in reducing symptoms of orthostatic hypotension and postural hypotension
  • Used in management of venous ulcers and manifestations of post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS)

Garments with a compression level above 40 mmHg usually require a prescription.

You don’t have to have acute lymphedema to benefit from the consistent pressure of a compression sleeve. Compression wraps can be used preventatively by individuals who spend a lot of time on their feet to assist them in their daily routine. Even if your lymphedema symptoms are minor, you may find that a compression sleeve or wrap increases your comfort and improves your endurance.

Get High-Quality Compression Wraps at Mastectomyshop.com

Mastectomyshop.com offers a wide range of lymphedema products such as bras, stockings, sleeves, short-stretch bandages, and vests at all compression levels. If you are recovering from a cancer operation, are at high risk for lymphedema after breast cancer, spend a lot of the day on your feet, or are looking to optimize blood flow and blood circulation, compression garments are an effective way to combat discomfort and keep you moving.

Explore our full range of compression garments today or call our customer service team at (877) 413-2272 for assistance.