Lipedema is a condition that is characterized by the buildup of subcutaneous fat tissue, typically around the lower extremities. The fat tissue and fluid retention can cause the extremities to appear swollen, and it can be painful to deal with for those affected by it. Swelling is not a rare symptom of lipedema; it is seen in all of its stages. This buildup is due to extracellular water which keeps building during later stages of lipedema. When one begins to review how to treat lipedema, we start with a multidisciplinary approach. This type of treatment utilizes lymphatic drainage and medical grade compression sleeves. These types of garments are critical for lipedema treatment in all stages of development, but especially the later stages. Take a look at what compression garments for lipedema can do for your treatment:
Compression garments are a critical aspect of any treatment for lipedema. When we look at compression therapy, we have three goals in mind for you to achieve. The first is to reduce any discomfort or aching you are having while supporting overall tissue health. The second is to streamline a distorted or uneven shape while helping to improvement your limb movement. The third goal is to reduce edema and reduce any interstitial fluid forming while helping your lymphatic system return. Overall, these three goals are necessary for you to properly handle any symptoms of lipedema.
The grade of your compression therapy all depends on your needs and stage of lipedema. The most prescribed form of compression therapy is with medical grade sleeves. Fortunately, all forms of compression therapy are relatively low cost and effective at treating ankle and wrist cuffs along with helping you manage any lobules.
The cause of lipedema to this day remains a mystery. While the cause is unknown, research has been able to answer how the lymphatic system has a primary role in developing lipedema. That same research has shown that medical grade compression sleeves are able to treat and prevent lipedema symptoms from getting worse. Wearing these types of compression sleeves can optimize your lymphatic system, especially the flow of interstitial fluid. When these types of fluids and proteins build up, they can cause nodular fibrosis, lobular fibrosis, and progressive dermal fibrosis. The further these types of fibroses continue, the greater risk you are at for long-term disability.
When it comes to compression therapy, there are a variety of forms you can choose from or be prescribed. The most common form of compression is known as graduated compression. This means that that the compression works from high pressure to low pressure up the limb. For instance, you will find that there is 100% compression around the distal end of your ankle or wrist. The compression eases up further up your leg or arm. There is an approximate compression of 70% around the calf or forearm and 40% compression around the thigh or upper arm. These graduated compression sleeves are also typically medical grade, meaning they have been prescribed by your physician. They are able to handle and treat moderate to high level forms of edema.
But even our limbs require a different level of compression, specifically between our arms and legs. Medical grade compression will have different levels of compression for our outer extremities. Specifically, medical grade compression sleeves for our arms have a strength of 18-20 mmHg. Compression sleeves for our legs have a strength of 30-40 mmHg. Recent studies have shown that these particular strengths are ideal to help your lymphatic flow. To start your therapy, a lower strength is typically recommended first. Particularly, physicians may recommend a strength of 20-30 mmHg before you move onto higher strength compression sleeves. Overall, a strength of 30-40 mmHg is a primary goal for any compression therapy so you can benefit from reduced symptoms of lipedema.
These different types of compression will vary depending on the type of treatment you need. Earlier stages of lipedema often only require a more moderate amount of compression. These initial prescriptions are for recovery from surgery. There are many brands that offer milder graduated compression such as Sigvaris, Medi, Solidea, and Jobst. We recommend you stay away from non-graduated compression brands like Bioflect and Marena. Once your symptoms of lipedema become more prominent you may be prescribed a medical grade compression sleeve.
Now that you know more about compression sleeves, you can see the benefit of them. However, wearing these compression sleeves can be difficult for those with lipedema. Disproportionate fat tissue may not allow the sleeves to fit exact. Instead, you can wear various sleeves for a layered approach. This will allow you to have comprehensive coverage around your arms and legs. For your legs, consider wearing compression shorts along with high compression garments to cover your entire leg. Discussions with your physician will help find the right coverage for you.