Compression socks/stockings are specially designed hosiery that applies pressure to the lower part of the legs to help maintain blood flow. They reduce discomfort and swelling, and improve overall circulation. They are tightest at the foot and gradually loosen higher on the leg. Compression socks are often prescribed by your doctor if you have a condition that causes poor blood flow in the legs, such as that of varicose veins (swollen and enlarged veins).
Do compression socks help with varicose veins?
Yes, compression socks help with varicose veins by applying pressure and reducing the amount of blood and pressure in the veins. The compression increases the pressure in the tissue under the skin to reduce swelling. This pressure in the tissue helps move excess fluid back into the blood vessels, and helps prevent too much fluid from leaking out of the vessels. Compression also reduces the ability of the superficial veins in the leg to expand and overfill with blood causing congestion. It is this congestion in the leg that causes pain, swelling, and skin changes in people with venous problems. The use of graduated compression stockings has been widely proven to improve symptoms of discomfort, swelling, fatigue and aching.
What lengths of compression hosiery are available?
Compression hosiery are available in various lengths: knee-high, thigh-high and pantyhose length. A knee-high length compression stocking is generally recommended for most case, but if you have varicose veins or swelling above your knee, thigh-high is recommended.
What does the compression level mean?
Compression level is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which is a measurement of pressure. The higher the number indicates a higher compression. Having graduated compression means that the compression is tightest at the ankle and gets lighter as you go up the leg. This allows circulation to improve up and out of the legs. The standard compression level is divided into three classes:
- Class 1: 15-20 mmHg
- Class 2: 20-30 mmHg
- Class 3: 30-40 mmHg
Compression socks and stockings typically lose some degree of the compression over time, so it is advised that they be replaced regularly. They may be hard to put on initially, and it may take awhile to get use to wearing them all day, but if they fit right, they should be comfortable. Compression hosiery come in various brands, styles and colours. If you have problems wearing the stockings, be sure to talk to your doctor.