Lymphedema is always a risk when undergoing cancer treatment for all types of cancer. For women with breast cancer, it can affect the arms, hands, breast, and other areas of the torso. Investing in a pair of arm compression sleeves for lymphedema is a great idea for treatment in the early stages before it gets serious.
How Does Lymphedema Happen?
Lymphedema happens when the fluid of the lymphatic system gets blocked and causes swelling. The lymphatic fluid is an essential part of the immune system that carries cells that help fight infection (T cells and other white blood cells) and helps remove waste and bacteria away from the body.
When too much of this fluid builds up in one area, you may feel a number of symptoms or even nothing at all. It depends on how serious it is. Be aware of any:
- A dent that left on an area after putting pressure
- Decreased flexibility
If you’ve just gone through breast cancer surgery, or are undergoing radiation, you need to keep a close lookout for any of these signs. These treatments can cause damage to lymph nodes and vessels that fluid flows through, or altogether be removed during surgery. Untreated lymphedema raises the likelihood of infection, especially if you have a wound somewhere.
Treating Stages 1 and 2
Before deciding on getting compression sleeves, you need to have solid communication with your doctor to figure out if you’re at an early stage or need more serious care.
- Stage 1. You don’t have any signs of lymphedema, but there is an abnormal lymphatic flow
- Stage 2. There is swelling, but it goes away when you raise your arm for a while. You might get a dent when applying pressure.
Besides getting compression sleeves for lymphedema, doctors recommend that breast cancer patients eat a balanced diet, get a regular amount of exercise, keep arms raised as much as possible, and have good skincare habits to prevent infection.
What to Know About Compression Sleeves
Compression sleeves can only do you good- given that you follow some basic guidelines. These kinds of sleeves keep fluid moving forward rather than letting it accumulate. Though, they often can’t be worn for long periods of time. In fact, there are even nighttime and daytime arm compression sleeves for lymphedema (one is a bit more flexible than the other). Nighttime compression is widely debated and some doctors don’t agree with it; they state that the sleeve can change position overnight and pose a risk to the arm.
You should always have your doctor approve an over-the-counter arm compression sleeve so that he/she can figure out if it’s good quality. Though, some women need custom-made sleeves so that it’s more tailored and comfortable for their specific measurements. Class 1 compression sleeves, with just 20-30 mmHg of pressure, and Class 2 with 30-40 mmHg are available without custom order.
Your doctor may order you a Class 3 (40-50 mmHg) or Class 4 (50-60 mmHg) if the swelling is more severe; this is why listening medical supervision should be the number one priority! You might need more heavy-duty sleeves to get decent circulation back.
Best Over-the-Counter Compression Sleeves
When it comes to choosing your arm compression sleeves for lymphedema, make sure you’re not just searching or buying just anything labeled “compression sleeves”. You may just end up with a product that’s only designed for sports, not cancer recovery. See below to get an idea of what you need:
- Mediven Comfort Armsleeve 30-40 mmHG. This store has a convenient and accurate size chart
- Lymphdivas Arm Sleeves. These have fun designs on them!
- ZENSAH Arm Sleeves. These are affordable and come straight from a medical supplier.
- BrightLifeDirect.com This site can help you get to know the wide variety of brands and compression levels for arm sleeves.
As always, speak with a doctor before starting out any new product for compression. Lymphedema is completely treatable as long as the right steps are taken!