Patient Guide

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About Compression Sleeves and Garments

Compression garments are recommended for people who have swelling or are at risk for swelling. Compression garments are fit and worn primarily on limbs but can also be used on other parts of the body. Compression garments are used by people after cancer treatment for swelling (commonly known as lymphedema), to help reduce the risk of swelling when flying, or during pregnancy or other medical conditions that can cause temporary swelling.

Frequently asked questions about lymphedema and compression garments

What is the difference between lymphedema and edema?

Lymphedema is a swelling caused by an accumulation of lymph fluid in an area of the body. This type of swelling often occurs after surgery or radiation to that area in which vessels may have been damaged or lymph nodes removed.

Edema is a build-up of fluid in tissues of the body not yet returned to the circulatory system. This fluid is different than lymph fluid and is usually not permanent or persistent.

What does Shine offer for lymphedema or edema?

Many patients will be prescribed garments that will provide compression for the affected limb. The garments help to keep fluid from accumulating in the limb. These garments have specific amounts of pressure and can be worn on the legs, hands, feet, or arms. The garments are made of a tight stretchy fabric. An expert fitter must fit compression garments (sleeves). Measurements are taken, and a patient must try on the sleeves to make certain that they have a comfortable fit. Sometimes sleeves must be custom made, but most people are able to find a pre-made sleeve in a suitable size. The sleeves prevent the accumulation of more fluid in the limb; they do not pump fluid out of the limb. The garments are usually used in combination with therapy or as a preventive or maintenance measure.

Lymphedema sleeves and treatment can change the size of the affected limb as can various activities. Sometimes patients need more than one sleeve during this process because of the changing size of the limb. There is a tendency for patients to think that their sleeve has been fit improperly. Sometimes it has been, but more often than not, the limb has changed in size.

Note: These sleeves wear out with continued daily use and must be refit and replaced on a regular basis (approximately every three to six months). Over time with washing and wearing they lose their compression. Different levels of compression are used for prevention versus maintenance.

Do I need a prescription for a compression garment?

A prescription is needed for compression garments over the level of 20-30 mmHg. Your doctor or nurse practitioner may write your prescription. Most practitioners will provide a prescription for all levels to ensure you are receiving the proper product.

In order to provide courtesy billing, a prescription is required.

Will compression garments be covered by insurance?

It is important to talk to your insurance company to determine whether these are covered items and what kind of authorization may be needed. Please bring this   Practitioner Notes for Compression Form (PDF), filled out by your practitioner, when you come to purchase compression garments.

Your doctor may be required to provide a medical justification for your compression garment in order for your insurance company to reimburse for the product. Many doctors do not fully understand these sleeves, how they work or what may be required by your insurance company. Talk to your doctor about these issues at the time your referral is made. Inform them that you may need a letter justifying the need and that they may need to provide this on an ongoing basis as your garment needs to be changed or renewed.

What are the prices of these products?

The products vary in price. Those that are custom made are more expensive than those which are stocked as part of our regular inventory. The following listing will provide an approximate idea of the range of prices for these products. The most important concern is to obtain the best product for your particular condition, which should be assessed by the physician/treatment team who is involved with the care of your lymphedema or edema.

Product List

  • OTC Compression Products: $25 - $95
  • Prescription Compression Products: $90 - $150
  • Custom Products available upon request based on measurements: Call for pricing

Why does buying products at Shine help other cancer survivors?

Shine is a result of SCCA’s Patient and Family Centered Care practices. Shine is the sister store SCCA’s Rain or Shine gift shop, where many patients asked for more services. Shine is SCCA’s response to your requests. Proceeds benefit patient programs.