Choosing lymphedema Clothes
When a person is diagnosed with lymphedema, he or she finds it to be demoralizing and experiences low self- esteem. Trying to cover an oversized arm or leg with inadequate items of clothing can take its toll emotionally and psychologically. When the arm or leg swells to more than double its normal size, the clothes you wore earlier no longer fit. Hence, choosing lymphedema clothes that are suitable for your condition becomes necessary. The positive aspect is that with the new fashion trends and the increasing awareness about the condition, it is now possible to find an alternative wardrobe that is attractive as well.
Designers of clothing are taking into account the needs of lymphedema patients and adopting newer approaches to make garments that are suitable and comfortable for these patients. A large percentage of women who have had breast cancer treatment experience lymphedema of the arm or truncal lymphedema. Since the regular clothes are no longer practical for their needs, they desire functional apparel that is stylish and comfortable to wear. Research and experimentation is being carried out in the field of clothing options for lymphedema patients. Some innovative designs for women’s clothes and accessories have been created and are now available in stores that exclusively cater to these consumers.
Women with arm lymphedema find it impossible to carry over-the-shoulder purses so a shoulder bag made of light-weight material, with detachable pockets and wide shoulder straps is ideally suited for them. The fabric of the clothes is also important; it should be lightweight and breathable so that the patient is comfortable even during a warm spell. Long sleeved tops made up of soft material that can accommodate the irregular sizes of the arm are now available. Many clothing stores stock these items, or if they are not available where you live, it is possible to procure it via internet shopping.
Individuals with lymphedema may take certain precautions while selecting clothes and accessories:
- Choose shirts, tops, pants and skirts that are not constricting enough to obstruct the lymphatic flow. Loose-fitting garments are comfortable in these circumstances as the fabric will not rub against the delicate skin to cause further damage.
- Apparel with tight elastic waistbands should be avoided as this can constrict the lymphatic flow.
- Undergarments should be a comfortable fit and without tight elastic bands that cut into the skin.
- Women should avoid using high heeled shoes or look for shoes that do not have straps or pointy toes.
- Lymphedema patients must ensure that the socks are not tight such that they leave indentations on the skin. These may restrict the lymph flow and further aggravate the condition.
- Tight rings and bracelets should be avoided and the watch can be worn on the unaffected arm.
- You must also be careful with the labels and tags attached with pins and staples to the items of clothing as these may be nick or cut your skin, exposing it to bacterial infections.
- Get the labels and tags removed after you purchase an item of clothing, so as not to cause skin irritation.
Lymphedema patients spend thousands of dollars on compression garments like compression sleeves and compression bras. These are part of the treatment therapy and often their use continues for life. With normal clothes however, in today’s fashion-conscious world, lymphedema patients need not give up their sense of fashion and can look forward to new and trendy designs to suit their special needs. After all, wearing comfortable clothes that are stylish and trendy help the person feel good and promote a general feeling of normalcy.
Lymphedema (PDQ®) - National Cancer Institute