Compression Garments for Lipoedema

Expert advice on how compression garments can help people with Lipoedema, plus advice on sourcing, fitting and applying them.

What are compression garments?

Compression garments are medical garments made from firm, elasticated fabric designed to improve circulation and apply pressure. Compression garments will not change the size or shape of the areas affected by Lipoedema. However, for people with Lipoedema, compression garments can:

  • Help reduce discomfort and heaviness, and in turn improve mobility
  • Support tissues and joints, providing a more even shape/silhouette over the limbs
  • Reduce swelling in cases where there is fluid retention or secondary lymphoedema present
  • Form part of conservative (i.e. non-surgical) treatment

Compression garments for secondary lymphoedema

Types of compression garments for Lipoedema

Compression garments come in many forms and styles, including tights, stockings, wraps, sleeves and night-time compression. Compression companies are specialists in their fabrics, and can offer guidance and information to take to your healthcare provider. Individual company websites are mines of information about their ranges of products and how to care for them. These companies’ websites offer remote support with tips for measuring to get the best fabric and fit.

Sometimes made-to-measure garments (rather than off the shelf) are required in Lipoedema management. This means that the garments are specifically made for individuals and should be a perfect fit and comfortable.

In the early stages of Lipoedema, circular, round-knit garments may be suitable. These should generally be in a tights or legging style, but be advised by a specialist trained in compression who can also measure and either prescribe or request a prescription from the GP.

In the later stages of Lipoedema, where there may be skin folds or ‘ankle cuffing’, it is important that a made-to-measure, flat-knit garment is provided.

Benefits of compression garments

How to get compression garments

Compression garments are available on prescription in the UK. Measuring and fitting should be done by a trained nurse, therapist, lymphoedema clinic, private clinician or pharmacist. It is important that any compression requirements are backed by a healthcare provider (a GP, practice nurse or specialist practitioner) who is aware of any relevant medical history, because sometimes compression is contraindicated.

For made-to-measure options, numerous length and circumference measurements will be recorded on a form, and this will be sent away with the prescription.

If you are purchasing extra garments following assessment, the price of made-to-measure garments will be more expensive. It is useful to check eligibility for VAT exemption with your GP, specialist nurse/therapist.

Lymphoedema Clinics

As there are no standalone specialist Lipoedema services, your GP may make a referral to the nearest local Lymphoedema Clinic for measuring for compression. If there are no local Lymphoedema Clinics, your GP may refer you to the nearest clinic that accepts out-of-area referrals.

Specialist Private Clinics

There are also specialist private clinics that are able to assess and measure for compression garments. If you are assessed at a private clinic, the clinician will send a letter, along with a recommended prescription for a specific garment and size, to your GP. It is important to check that your GP or pharmacy do not substitute or change the prescription to a different manufacturer or product.

What our members tell us about their experiences with compression garments

Tips for fitting and applying compression

  • When you receive your compression garments, check that the packaging has the correct information regarding the company, style, size and class of compression. If you collect them from a pharmacy, it is important to check you have the right garment before you walk out of the door.
  • A garment applicator (donning and doffing aid) can make the application of the stockings easier and some can help you get them off, too. Ask your GP for a prescription for a suitable device, although you may want to research online and purchase your own through a compression-garment supplier’s website.
  • Specially designed gloves are available from compression companies to help with getting your garment on – but a pair of rubber washing-up gloves can also help!
  • Long fingernails can easily go through the expensive garment material, so gloves can be helpful to prevent this, too.
  • Check the fit and feedback to your specialist who recommended or prescribed them. Quite often initially only 1 pair will be requested to ensure that the fit is good and comfortable.
  • Garments are usually applied first thing in the morning and taken off in the evening.
  • According to the NHS, anyone prescribed with compression stockings should have their legs remeasured and garments replaced every four to six months.
  • It’s time to get a replacement if you find loose threads or holes, or if you have lost or gained weight, and if the garments feel too loose or too tight. Do not wear your hosiery if it is causing your skin to mark excessively or is causing any numbness or is uncomfortable.
  • Two garments will be required – one to wear and one to wash. Always check the manufacturer’s washing instructions, which usually recommend a lower temperature and hand-wash cycle with no fabric conditioner. The compressive properties of the garment can be affected if incorrectly washed.
  • There are different specialist postal prescription services which stock various garments in an array of colours. If you choose to use one of these companies, they can explain how to set up repeat prescriptions to enable you to have compression delivered to your home.
  • Compression should be snug without causing any discomfort or other issues, such as excess bunching. Numbness, tingling, bruising, blistering and rubbing are common complaints of ill-fitting garments and among the warning signs to look out for. In this case, remove the garments immediately and get in touch with your GP or the healthcare professional who recommended or prescribed them as soon as possible.
  • If the weather is hot, wearing compression can be a challenge – but try keeping your spare pair in the fridge or freezer so they are nice and cool to apply!

Which companies supply compression garments?

Lipoedema UK is grateful for the support of the companies listed below, which provide professional-grade medical products that are suitable for patients with Lipoedema. Following a diagnosis, these products can be obtained through prescriptions issued by a qualified healthcare professional, your GP or your practice or community nurse, and are often available on the NHS. Some of these companies also provide made-to-measure or standard-size compression products via their online shops, and have helplines to offer support relating to queries regarding their products.

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