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About Lymphedema

In your research on information about breast cancer, you may have come across a condition called lymphedema. Lymphedema affects the lymphatic vessels, which are responsible for transporting protein-rich lymph fluid back into the circulatory system. When lymph vessels or lymph nodes are missing, impaired, damaged, or removed the fluid isn't properly transported or filtered and a build-up occurs. This results in swelling and thickening of the skin.

ARE YOU AT RISK?
Lymphedema may develop after breast surgery or treatment because there is a change in the pathway that drains the fluids in your lymphatic system. It may occur within a few months after a procedure, years later, or not at all. If you've had any of the following procedures, there's a chance you may be at risk:

  • Simple mastectomy in combination with axillary (arm pit) lymph node removal
  • Lumpectomy in combination with axillary lymph node removal
  • Modified radical mastectomy in combination with axillary lymph node removal
  • Combined cancer surgery and radiation therapy to a lymph node region (such as the neck, armpit, groin, pelvis or abdomen)
  • Radiation therapy to a lymph node region



WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
A small amount of swelling is normal for the first four to six weeks after surgery, so it's important to talk to your doctor about what you should look for in terms of lymphedema. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call your health care provider right away because prompt treatment can help get the condition under control. If left untreated, however, it can become worse.

  • Swelling characterized by "pitting" which is when the skin is depressed for a few seconds and the indentation does not immediately disappear
  • Swelling in the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders, chest or legs
  • A "full" or heavy sensation in the arms or legs
  • Decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle
  • Skin tightness
  • Difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area
  • Tight-fitting bracelet, watch or ring that wasn't tight before



HOW GRADUATED COMPRESSION THERAPY CAN HELP
Although there is no cure, lymphedema can be controlled. Wearing graduated compression garments is one of the easiest and most important ways you can manage lymphedema. Be sure to talk to your doctor about lymphedema and compression therapy.

About Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are used to support the muscles of the calf in circulating blood and lymph fluid through the legs. These stockings or hose are usually made of elastic or rubber fibers that aid in compressing the leg.

Compression stockings have a graduated compression with maximum compression at the ankle and decreasing up the leg.  There are different types of compression available in these stockings, so be sure to check with your doctor about which level of compression would be best for you.

Depending on your situation, the first approach before offering varicose vein treatments is the use of compression stockings, or also known as compression hoses or compression socks. These may help relieve some of the symptoms and move blood more efficiently through your legs.  There are a number of brands to choose. These stockings have been proven to help with the treatment of varicose veins. 

Compression stockings are a simple, inexpensive way to treat varicose veins. These specially fitted hose are designed to reduce the pooling that occurs in spider and varicose veins. Although wearing hose won’t eliminate varicose veins, they can help alleviate symptoms caused by the veins, such as aching, heaviness, and swelling as well as help prevent worsening of the veins. Wearing compression stockings can also reduce the risk of developing blood clots from long plane or car rides.

The stockings apply pressure in a gradient fashion- highest around the ankle with less pressure as they go up the leg. This helps milk the blood back up the leg towards the heart. They come in various strengths and should be prescribed by your physician. They can range in price from about $50-$125. Prices vary. Prescription-strength stockings also are available. Your doctor will either supply you with hose or give you a prescription to be used in a medical supply store. Over-the-counter hose offer less compression than do the prescription variety and may not be adequate.

Remember that there are a few brands that are used by the physicians.  Any of these major brands are effective for their purpose. Please note that, like many other items, you pay more for a certain name brand.  The compression stockings we have in our shopping area are affordable and offer adequate support.

If you purchase some, please remember that compression stockings are worn all day.

Stockings come in a variety of strengths, styles and colors. With the variety offered, you're likely to find a stocking that you're comfortable wearing.

Please note that compression stockings should be strong but not very tight. If you have weak hands or arthritis, getting these stockings on may be difficult. There are devices to make putting them on easier.

Houston Wellness Boutique offers compression stockings from a leading manufacture Juzo 
http://www.juzousa.com/stockings.aspx