A very common question we hear is: Do I have to wear compression stockings for varicose veins? The answer is that you may be surprised how much they help. If you have leg swelling its generally an issue with fluid pressurized in the veins accumulating in the lower leg. This is often due to venous insufficiency and varicose veins. Swelling can be uncomfortable. It can also damage the skin, leading to brown or irritated skin or skin breakdown with venous ulcers.
The first step suggested for patients with leg swelling is often to consider compression garments to help compress the lower leg and squeeze the fluid back to the healthier veins so it does not accumulate in the legs. Also, compression hose are often used after varicose vein treatments such as ClosureFast RFA or sclerotherapy. Finally, some insurance companies require a trial that includes compression hose as a conservative, non surgical approach to manage leg vein symptoms before they will authorize a varicose vein treatment session.
Thus its very common to hear about compression stockings when you visit the vein doctor. Its not that all patients need them forever, but many patients will find they helpful in their vein treatment journey. What really helps is to learn about the options so the patient can choose the best stockings for their particular case. When in our office, as detailed in this video by Dr. Gentile at Inovia Vein Specialty Centers in Happy Valley, Oregon, we often advise patients about compression treatment options. Our discussion not uncommonly includes addressing the common questions such as:
What Are Compression Stockings And Why Are They Useful?
Compression stockings are elastic garments worn around the leg, compressing the limb. This reduces the diameter of distended veins and causes an increase in venous blood flow velocity and valve effectiveness. Compression therapy helps decrease venous pressure, prevents venous pooling, and relieves heavy, aching, swelling legs. Modern compression hosiery puts comfortable pressure on the legs, increasing blood flow, while reducing the pressure on veins. This simple yet effective tool relieves common leg ailments such as swelling, discomfort, and aching. They are extremely beneficial for managing the symptoms associated with varicose veins and other vein problems such as blood clots in the legs or lymph-edema.
Choosing the Best Compression Hosiery for You
It’s important to choose the type of compression stockings that will provide the greatest benefit to you. Keep these key points in mind when choosing your compression hosiery.
Compression stockings range in strength from 10mmHg to stronger strengths of 50mmHg or more. You will find lower strength stockings readily available in pharmacies and online. Higher strength stockings are available with a prescription from your physician, and are commonly used for varicose veins and vein treatments. Most patients need 20 to 30 mmHg strength
Gradient or Uniform?
Compression stockings are available as gradient or uniform stockings. Gradient stockings are tightest at the ankle and gradually decrease pressure up the leg, while uniform stockings provide the same amount of pressure along the entire leg. Gradient stockings are the best type for most people.
Knee length stockings are the perfect choice for the majority of people, unless swelling or varicose veins are present above the knee. In this case, thigh high stockings are a better choice for you.
It’s important for compression hose to be properly fit. This can be done professionally if needed. Every leg is different, and finding the right fit and brand to match the fit is important to benefiting from compression hose.
Remember. Compression stockings do not have to be ugly. There are stylish and athletic compression stockings of all shapes, sizes, colors and different materials so you can find the pair that best fit your medical needs, lifestyle, and sense of style.
What Time of Day to Put Your Compression Socks On? When to take off?
Generally, the best time of day to put your stockings on is in the morning when you wake up. This is the time when your legs are at their least swollen. Most people take their compression stockings off at night. They are for when you are up and about, not when you are sleeping at night.
I Have Trouble Getting My Stockings on and Off
If you find it difficult to put your stockings, you are not alone. This is a very common problem. However many patients who intially struggle with this find a way to make it work by exploring some of these tips to see what works best for them.
- Sprinkle a small amount of baby powder on your legs.
- Consider rubber gloves to help you get a better grip on the stockings
- Putting your stocking on is called “donning.” Taking it off is called “doffing.” There are a number of great resources on the internet and youtube about donning and doffing stockings. Consider using special donning and doffing aids available for socks and stockings. You can find examples on line from most of the major companies:
- Always roll the stocking down completely before placing your foot inside.
- Try open open toe stockings.
- Consider Velcro wraps such as the Circaid Juxtafit Wrap
- Consider specialty fitting options. Those that custom fit stockings often have access to donning and doffing supplies and can help train you to use them.
How to Properly Care for Your Stockings?
It’s best to have two or more pairs of stockings if you wear them on a regular basis. Be sure to wash your stockings after each wear with a gentle detergent and warm water, allowing them to air dry on a flat surface before using them again. This will help them keep their elasticity and provide proper support for your legs. Stockings shouldn’t have to be replaced more often than every 3 to 6 months at most with proper care. When they do become worn out, they need to be replaced to continue to offer therapeutic benefit.