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Compression sleeves and garments are designed to do just what their name suggests: apply pressure to the arm, hand, or trunk to keep lymph moving in the right direction. (Remember that some lymphatic vessels are located just under the surface of your skin.) Research studies have not yet looked at the effectiveness of compression sleeves alone in treating lymphedema. However, experts have found them to be effective as part of the overall treatment plan. Examples include:
- a sleeve worn on the arm
- a fingerless glove or a gauntlet (which does not have individual finger openings), often worn with a sleeve
- a support bra for the chest area or a vest for the entire trunk area
All of the garments are made of flexible fabric. Sleeves are tighter at the bottom than they are at the top. This helps create the graded (or “gradient”) pressure that keeps the lymph moving out of the arm. In addition, there is a variety of fabrics available: Some feel softer, others stiffer, and some may include materials such as wool or latex.