Depending on the severity of the condition, lymphedema management involves using bandages, compression garments, or pneumatic compression devices. Along with exercise and massage, all of these lymphedema products are designed to circulate lymph fluid back toward the body for drainage. While these items are readily available without a prescription, patients typically use lymphedema treatments under the direction of a health care provider.
In combination with elevating the effected limb, simple, inexpensive lymphedema products include bandaging, which helps drain the fluid by means of compression. Patients generally use one or more elastic bandages as lymphedema bandages. An individual begins applying the bandage on the distal end of the limb and continues wrapping until reaching the torso. The bandage must be applied without creases or wrinkles to prevent skin damage and to avoid impeding circulation. The bandage is generally left in place for day or nighttime wear and removed at night or in the morning, respectively.
A less tedious approach involves using one-piece lymphedema compression garments. The tightly fitting garments are woven into stretchable, seamless lymphedema arm sleeves or leggings that typically cover the entire limb. Garment lengths vary depending on whether the digits, hands or feet, in addition to the limb, require compression. Also applied without wrinkling, patients or medical staff remove the compression garments at the recommended time intervals.
More expensive and complex lymphedema products include one-piece, seamless, cotton stockinettes worn in conjunction with a rigid outer shell-like device. The shell wraps around the limb and has self-adhering straps, which allow for compression adjustment. A similar device includes a one-piece, seamless foam liner combined with an outer shell. The foam sleeve encapsulates the arm or leg and after applying the outer shell, the straps adjust for the desired level of compression. The design features of these apparatuses enable a patient to apply or remove the device without assistance.
Lymphedema pumps or sequential compression devices are lymphedema products generally used for reducing swelling of the legs, but may also be prescribed for edema in the arms or torso. During this type of compression treatment, the patient typically wears an encapsulating device filled with empty chambers. The garment contains tubing, which attaches to a motorized pump. Once turned on, the pump fills each chamber with air, causing compression. Each chamber also automatically deflates.
The adjustable controls on the motor module enable health care providers to regulate the amount of air pressure applied and the time between filling and deflating. A device feature ensures the majority of compression occurs at the distal end of the limb, gradually decreasing along the length of the sleeve. These lymphedema products provide a deep tissue massage along with encouraging lymph fluid movement back toward the heart.