One of the most common symptoms of lipedema that is observed in all stages is swelling. This symptom is due to an increased amount of extracellular water causing the swelling. This extracellular water is lymphatic fluid that contains hundreds of inflammatory compounds that are responsible for fibrosis that drives the progression of lipedema. The increase of water will only increase with each further stage. One of the most frequently recommended forms of care for swelling and pain is wearing compression garments. This step in our multidisciplinary approach is typically recommended in the first stage but always in later stages.
Goal for Compression Therapy
The specific goals for wearing compression garments is to reduce any discomfort and aching that your swelling is causing. Compression has an anti-inflammatory effect on the tissue by reducing interstitial fluid formation and ensuring fluids are kept moving to reduce lymphatic stasis. Compression therapy can also help your limb improve its movement and reduce edema. Finally, compression can help smooth out lobules and cuffs caused by lipedema.
Halt the Progression of Your Lipedema
We understand that that the lymphatic system plays a critical role in how lipedema progresses. Medical grade compression stockings are prescribed during treatment and have been observed to treat the symptoms of lipedema and promote lymphatic flow. Wearing compression garments can help prevent excess interstitial fluid that is directly linked with nodular fibrosis and lobular fibrosis. These fibrotic processes are also linked to eventual disability stemmed from lipedema.
Various Strengths of Compression Garments
The prescribed compression garment is dependent on the individual needs of your lipedema. It is important the compression is graduated to promote lymphatic fluid movement. These garments apply 100% compression strength to the distal end of the limb worn on your ankle or wrist. The compression garment gives gradually decreased percent of compression as it goes more proximally toward the center of your body and heart. Typically, our arms require less compression strength than our legs do. Most physicians will start out prescribing a lower graduated compression before working up to a heavier progression. A recommended graduated 30-40 mmHg pressure at the ankle and 18 mm Hg at the wrist has been shown to minimize edema, reduce symptoms, and halt the progression of diseases related to lipedema and lymphedema. Please note some compression sold is not graduated and is not medical grade. For example, Bioflect and Marena sell popular compression garments that are not graduated and are not medical grade. There is no evidence that Bioflect or Marena garments will have the desired effects. Sigvaris, Juzo, Jobst, and Solidea all sell graduated compression that have been shown to have the desired effects.
Special Sizing for Individuals with Lipedema
While compression garments are great, they can be difficult to fit on women with lipedema. As the fat accumulates out of proportion to the body, lipedema will lead to unique body shapes. In order to fit these shapes and allow individuals to remain flexible they will need to wear layering compression garments. These combinations can be seen as knee-high socks with compression pants. This allows the individual to have a comprehensive coverage without any gaps of compression.