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What is a Compression Sleeve?

How a Compression Sleeve helps with Arm Lymphedema

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Updated April 30, 2014

LympheDIVAs Compression Sleeve

LympheDIVAs Compression Sleeve

Image © LympheDIVAs LLC

A compression sleeve is a stretchy elasticized garment that is custom-fitted to your arm, and helps with pain and swelling caused by arm lymphedema. Sometimes a compression sleeve is referred to as a compression garment, compression arm sleeve, lymphedema sleeve or a pressure sleeve. A compression sleeve may be worn during exercise, when traveling by air, or when you need help managing lymphedema.

During breast cancer surgery, some of your lymph nodes may be removed and tested in a procedure called axillary lymph node dissection. This is an important step in checking for metastasis, as cancer cells can break off from breast tumors and travel through your lymph system, lodging in your lymph nodes. Your lymph node status is a very important part of your comprehensive diagnosis.

However, after your lymph nodes have been removed, you are at risk for developing arm lymphedema, a condition that may cause swelling of your surgery-side hand and arm. Let your doctor know if you are experiencing lymphedema, and try to get a referral to a lymphedema therapist. A specialist can help guide you in choosing from the different types of compression sleeves. You may need a prescription from your doctor, to file a claim with your insurance company and help cover the cost of compression sleeves.

Compression sleeves are available in different weights and fabrics, as well as a variety of colors. While some sleeves cover only your arm, others extend down your palm. If you are having hand lymphedema, you can also get gauntlets and fingerless gloves that offer some compression. If your are worried about pulling on a tight sleeve, or concerned that the sleeve may slip down while you're doing arm exercises, you can use some light adhesive to keep the sleeve in place, or a lotion that helps you slide the sleeve on more easily.

Sources:

Lymphedema (PDQ®) - Treatment of Lymphedema. National Cancer Institute. Last Modified: 04/01/2009.

Lymphedema: What Every Woman With Breast Cancer Should Know. American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 07/21/2008.

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