Here's the scoop...
Summer can be tough with lymphatic disorders like lymphedema and lipedema. I find one of the hardest parts is putting on a bathing suit. I usually don't stress too much about what I look like, because for the most part, I can hide my lymphedema. But the wrong bathing suit can bring out the blubbles (rolls/third boob caused by the backup of fluid) which make me feel self conscious and exposed.
This year I took a trip with my family to Puerto Rico and wanted a swimsuit that made me feel comfortable, covered and even a little sexy. I tried on at least 20 different suits and was beyond frustrated and disappointed. Lymphedema effects each of our bodies differently so you may have to do some of your own experimentation, but here’s what I learned to hopefully save you some hassle!
Lymphedema & Lipedema Bathing Suit Tips
The most important thing to keep in mind is to find a suit that won't cut off your superficial lymphatics (the lymphatics just beneath the skin that take in excess fluid). If your lymphatic flow is cut off, it will cause a fluid backup resulting in blubbles above the restricted area. Over the years, my lymphedema has progressed body wide because of the multiple surgeries on my core from breast cancer treatments. But, even if yours is not body wide, my suggestions will still benefit your entire lymphatic system. :)
3. Ruffles - I love suits with ruffles because they distract from other areas. They're a great way to add a little something and feel feminine.
4. Tie straps - These are also great because you have control over how much pressure is put on your superficial lymphatics. I find high-neck tie straps are best so you don't have to tie them as tight.
1. Tankinis - I would stay away from tankinis because the bottoms will infringe on your core lymphatics creating the possibility of a major blubble of fluid above it.
2. Too tight - Any bathing suit that's too tight will restrict multiple areas of your lymphatics, which is game over for your lymphedema. I know how frustrating it can be to buy a suit that is bigger than your “normal” size, but it's in your best interest. I like to buy bathing suits one to two sizes bigger than my typical size.
3. Back cut - any time a bathing suit cuts across your back (it doesn't matter if it's high or low), it restricts all of the superficial lymphatics along the edge. This can cause a major blubble above the end of the suit. These types of bathing suits are an absolute no-no for me when I'm hanging on the beach or by the pool. I start to fill up with fluid within a few minutes, I couldn't imagine what it would look like by the end of the day.
4. Straps matter! If straps are too thin, cut across the back, or are criss-crossed they can cut into the superficial lymphatics creating blubbles that can definitely make you feel self conscious. The wider the strap, the more dispersed the pressure.
5. One shoulder - I thought this would work but unfortunately, it's designed to be tighter around your armpit to keep the suit up. Such a bummer!
Compression Garments and the Water
One of the things I love about going to the beach is that water provides natural compression. If you're going in and out of the water pretty regularly throughout the day, you can definitely get away with not wearing your compression if you want to.
However, once I'm done at the beach, I always put my Active Massage garments back on. These garments work to stimulate rather than restrict lymphatic function.