Published on: April 3, 2020
Understanding Compression Levels
Gradient compression is one of the most effective ways to manage the swelling caused by lymphedema and venous disorders. Compression garments help relieve pain and reduce swelling by preventing the accumulation of fluids and by helping counteract the body’s tendency to swell.
Gradient compression has the greatest pressure at its base (or ankle/wrist) and reduces as the compression garment goes up the arm or leg. This helps encourage the movement of fluids, for both blood circulation and lymph fluid circulation. The gentle pressure helps blood vessels and lymph vessels absorb fluids more easily, providing relief for tissues and reducing swelling.
Compression levels are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). This unit determines the correct amount of pressure to be applied to your limb. Each compression level serves a different purpose and is often prescribed by doctors for a specific medical condition.
15-20 mmHg: This is the mildest form of compression which treats minor to moderate symptoms of swelling, aching, and varicose veins. If your legs swell when you fly, take a long road trip, or stand on your feet for long periods, this is the compression level you should wear. This compression level can also be used to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
20-30 mmHg: This is a moderate compression level for increased swelling, poor leg vein health, and mild edema/lymphedema. If your legs swell and you aren’t sure why, or if you had surgery and are at risk of developing venous or lymphatic issues, a moderate compression level is recommended.
30-40 mmHg: This is the firmest compression level to provide relief for severe edema, varicose veins, and deep vein thrombosis. If you have ever had a venous stasis ulcer, where a wound on your leg has resulted due to Chronic Venous Insufficiency, you need a heavier level of compression to treat the underlying symptoms.
Here is more information on the suggested compression dosage.
You should always consult with your healthcare professional before investing in compression garments for the treatment of your lymphedema. Your provider can recommend or prescribe the best compression garments for your needs.