FAQs About Lymphedema Garments and Bandaging

Andrea Branas, MSE, MPT, CLT & Joy Cohn, PT, DPT, CLT
Good Shepherd Penn Partners
Last Modified: February 14, 2018

What types of bandages are used to treat lymphedema? 

The bandages used during Complete Decongestive Therapy are called "short-stretch" bandages. They look like "ACE™" bandages, but they are different.  

Can I use ACE™ bandages for my lymphedema? 

No – you should not use ACE™ bandages to treat lymphedema. The elastic in the ACE™ bandages will create a tourniquet effect on your limb, which may make your lymphedema worse. 

Where can I get lymphedema bandages? 

Your therapist may be able to provide them. If not, you should speak with your therapist about which durable medical equipment store or online store you can purchase them from.  

If I have swelling, can I purchase a garment? 

If you have swelling, it is best to have a doctor, nurse or therapist examine you to determine whether you have lymphedema. If you have lymphedema, you should be seen by a Lymphedema Therapist to determine the best type of compression for you. Purchasing a garment without the help of a professional may lead to improper fitting and may potentially make your lymphedema worse. 

When should I wear my garment? 

Your therapist will direct you as to when you should wear your garment. Most likely, you will be instructed to wear your garment throughout the day. It is usually suggested that you put it on first thing on the morning, and remove in the evening.  

Can I sleep with my garments? 

Compression garments should not be worn during sleeping at night. They can cause a tourniquet effect in bed and cause more swelling or limit blood flow. Compression garments are replaced by bandaging or specially made nighttime garments for sleeping. 

When do I need to replace my garments? 

Your compression garment MUST be replaced every 3-6 months. If you have been measured by a professional and have no changes in swelling, you can order them directly from the manufacturer. If your body part has changed size, you will need to be remeasured for a new garment. Also, if this was your first garment, you should definitely be measured before ordering a new one. 

How do I care for my garments? 

Garments must be washed AT LEAST every other day. Sweating can cause rapid breakdown of the garment and it needing to be replaced. Washing instructions are included with each garment. In general, hand OR machine wash with a mild detergent in warm water, then roll in a towel to squeeze out excess moisture (do not wring) and hang to dry. 

Use a mild liquid detergent. Some manufacturers make their own washing solutions as well. Garments dry better when hung in an airy location. Also, do not hang outside as sunlight may cause premature loss of garment stretch. 

What is the best way to put my garments on? 

Household latex rubber gloves should be used to correctly and safely put on your garment. The gloves protect the garments from pulls and snags caused by jewelry and fingernails. Gloves also allow you to 'smooth' or 'massage' the garment into place without excessive stretching or 'pinching and pulling'. Put the garment on in stages as you have been taught, small sections at a time. 

To achieve a proper fit, align the fabric and seams so the lines run vertically and straight. DO NOT fold the garment over or let it roll. It is a common mistake to overstretch the garment when putting it on. If the garment is bunching up, use the gloves to spread the fabric down. 

Can I use a moisturizer before putting my garment on? 

Use skin moisturizer just prior to bandaging or after bathing and allow to absorb well. Do not use right before putting on your garment. Fabrics are less tolerant of lotions and ointments. Use only a light dusting of cornstarch if needed to help the garment go on. Ointments with a petroleum base are not recommended as they can damage some elastic garments. If you have trouble slipping your garment on despite a slight amount of cornstarch, there are other options. Discuss these options with your therapist. 

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