Venous insufficiency refers to veins in the legs that don’t function correctly. This can cause problems like swelling, pain, blood clotting, skin changes, and even wounds or ulcers.
Some of the most common symptoms of venous insufficiency are varicose veins and spider veins. Each of these visible vein conditions can cause both pain and an undesired appearance. Both are also potential signs of larger and more serious conditions.
A common treatment for varicose and spider veins, and for venous insufficiency as a whole, is compression therapy. Compression garments, such as compression socks or stockings can reduce the symptoms of venous insufficiency and improve circulation.
How do compression stockings work, and what are they most useful for? Take a look.
How Do Compression Stockings Work?
When you walk or move your legs in a normal motion, your calf muscles near the veins expand and contract. This motion is what helps move blood up, against the flow of gravity, and back to your heart where it can be redistributed throughout the body.
Venous insufficiency occurs when this process is damaged. This is usually due to a problem with valves inside the veins themselves.
Compression stockings help by acting as an external layer of pressure similar to the muscle. They gently squeeze veins together to help close them off to blood flowing the wrong way through damaged valves, and help normalize blood flow through the entire leg.
Types of Compression Stockings
For some people with minor venous insufficiency issues, basic panty-hose or knee-high socks are often enough to help compress the veins and eliminate symptoms. If these help your symptoms, stick with them – they’re inexpensive and can be easily replaced.
In more serious cases, though, you’ll need compression stockings from a medical supplier. In these cases, there are two categories of compression stockings to be aware of. The key difference between the two is pressure level, which is tracked by millimeters of mercury in barometric pressure (mmHg).
- Anti-embolism stockings: Generally between 8 and 18 mmHG, anti-embolism stockings are meant for people who are unable to get out of bed or move frequently. They’re designed to help veins stay normal through compression without much assistance from muscles in the body.
- Medical compression stockings: Usually between 15 and 20 mmHG, or higher in some cases. These stockings are for people who are able to move around and require that extra compression to fight gravity while they’re on their feet.
How to Use Them
Compression stockings often extend to your knees, and are generally tightest right near the bottom of the foot. In most cases of venous insufficiency, it’s recommended that you wear compression stockings all day, and sometimes during sleep.
Compression stockings may feel a bit strange at first, but patients get used to the sensation over time and become more comfortable. If problems with comfort continue for more than a few days or a week, speak with your doctor or look into a different size. There may be little bouts of pain associated with compression stockings, but the benefits – removing unsightly veins and preventing dangerous conditions – usually far outweigh these minor inconveniences.
If you want to know more about compression stockings and if they will work for you, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss a treatment plan.
Compression Stockings for Varicose Veins – Topic Overvew. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/compression-stockings-to-treat-varicose-veins-topic-overview
What is compression therapy? Sigvaris. http://www.sigvaris.com/usa/en-us/knowledge