Compression stockings are used by many people for improving blood circulation. The concept hails from the olden days when Roman soldiers used to wrap their legs in leather straps in order to improve blood circulation during and after long marches. While the basic concept remains the same, the design of modern-day compression stockings has obviously changed. The new design of these compression stockings provides consistent pressure on the legs, thus helping blood to circulate back to the heart easily. But do compression stockings also help with varicose veins? This article deals with the use of compression stockings with varicose veins and the ways of using it.
Varicose veins have become a common problem affecting many people around the world today. A varicose vein is a prominently visible vein that is located just underneath the surface of the skin, making it quite visible. Since older days, the concept of compression applied on legs is used to improve blood circulation. So, do compression stockings help with varicose veins? Let’s look at whether or not compression stockings can help reduce the painful symptoms and the appearance of varicose veins.
Compression Stockings and Varicose Veins
To understand whether or not compression stockings can help with varicose veins, we need to first understand what they are and how do they work. Compression stockings have been used for many years by people who need to improve blood circulation. These have been designed to provide a certain level of consistent pressure on the legs, which helps the blood flow back to the heart without any problem. The compression stockings are designed in a manner to exert more pressure on the feet and the ankles. This provides the extra squeeze that is required to promote blood flow back to the heart. It is worth knowing how compression stockings help with varicose veins and the ways in which it is used.
A varicose vein is a highly visible vein, which is located just underneath the surface of the skin. They occur when blood begins to accumulate behind the small valves in the veins, rather than flowing back normally to the heart. Varicose veins are commonly seen in the legs and feet. This is because the blood has to travel a long distance from these extremities to reach back to the heart.
Do Compression Stockings Help With Varicose Veins?
People generally tend to get varicose veins if they are suffering from chronic venous insufficiency. In this, the person tends to experience swollen ankles and heavy legs by the time the day ends. You are also likely to experience pain or cramps in your legs during the night. Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the valves present in the veins become damaged, making it difficult for the blood to travel up your legs towards your heart, going against gravity. Over a period of time, these malfunctioning valves itself result in varicose veins, which appear to be rope-like, twisted, veins that are purple or bluish in color, and are visible just beneath your skin. If appropriate pressure is applied on the legs and feet, it helps to push the blood flowing back to the heart, thus improving venous insufficiency.
It is believed that compression stockings may help with varicose veins and also reduce the painful symptoms by exerting pressure on the legs. How does this work? How do compression stockings help with varicose veins? Let us understand it further.
Compressions stockings, or compression socks, are often recommended by doctors to improve the blood circulation in your legs and feet, to stop varicose veins from worsening, and also for reducing pain and the general discomfort associated with varicose veins. The pressure exerted by these compression stockings on your legs and ankles helps to compress the surface arteries and veins. This helps the vein valves to continue functioning properly, allowing the blood to flow back to your heart normally without any obstruction. The design of these stockings is such that they provide an extra squeeze near the ankles and feet for promoting blood flow. This is how compression stockings help with varicose veins and helps reduce symptoms related to it.
Compression stockings are made from a specific type of elastic hosiery that works to support healthy blood circulation and also prevents health conditions related to blood circulation.
Research Studies on the Benefits of Compression Stockings For Varicose Veins?
There have been many research studies that have looked at how do compression stockings help in varicose veins. These include:
- A study done in 2018 and published in the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery found that wearing compression stockings that have a pressure of 18 to 21 millimeters of mercury for one week helped lower pain associated with varicose veins.
- A 2017 study done at the CH-PE University in Italy, determined that wearing compression stockings with a pressure of 22 millimeters of mercury for just six months helped to control the swelling in legs and ankles in pregnant women who had varicose veins. While the study showed the effectiveness of compression stockings, it nevertheless found that the oral medications may be effective as compared to the compression stockings.
- In 2014, a study done at the University of Helsinki, Finland, found that while compression stockings were effective in managing varicose veins, a surgery for removing varicose veins was actually more effective than compression stockings.
- Results from these studies remained mixed, but for people who cannot undergo surgery or take prescribed medications, then wearing compressions stockings are the best choice to help with varicose veins. So, compression stockings do help with varicose veins but the need of medications and surgery depends on the severity of condition.
Hence, it is best to follow medical advice regarding appropriate treatment, while compression stockings can be worn to help with varicose veins as a part of conservative management.
How to Use Compression Stockings for Varicose Veins?
Now that it is clear that compression stockings do help with varicose veins, it is necessary to know the ways to use it. If you want to benefit from using compression stockings, then the key is to put them on in the morning itself, even before you begin to lower your legs to get out of bed.
When you sleep in a horizontal position, it helps your vein valves function more efficiently as compared to when you are standing or sitting. When you are in a vertical position, your body is obviously affected by gravity, compromising the blood flow due to the damaged valves in your veins. This is why, in spite of having damaged vein valves, your calves and ankles feel just fine in the morning when you get up, and tends to get heavy and swollen as the day continues to progress.
When you put on your compression stockings in the morning before you get out of bed, it will help keep your vein valves in the correct position so that they continue to support healthy blood circulation to your legs during the entire day.
If you already suffer from varicose veins, then compression stockings will help you get relief from the following associated symptoms like
How to Choose Compression Stockings for Varicose Veins?
While compression stockings help varicose veins, using the right level of pressure can provide the expected relief. Your doctor would be the right person to advise you on the right compression level that is ideal for your condition. Compression stockings are available in four levels of compression. These include:
- Firm and Extra Firm Compression: This is the highest level of compression. These are recommended by doctors when you suffer from a serious case of varicose veins or other venous conditions such as leg ulcers, deep vein thrombosis, and lymphatic edema.
- Moderate Compression: This is recommended when you start to experience the symptoms of varicose or spider veins.
- Mild Compression: This level of compression is used when you are diagnosed with mild chronic venous insufficiency. This level of compression will promote and support healthy blood flow to make your legs feel lighter.
Are There any Risks to Wearing Compression Stockings?
Due to the fact that compression stockings are designed to be very tight, they are extremely difficult to put on. You need to make sure your legs are dry and clean before you try to put them on. If you have applied any lotion, then wait for it to dry completely before you put on the stockings.
There can be some side effects to using compression stockings. These include:
- Broken skin
- Skin irritation
- Temporary dents may appear in the skin
Although it is true that compression stockings help with varicose veins, if your stockings are worn incorrectly, become wrinkled, or they are the wrong size for you, then they will cause more problems.
You have to be careful while deciding on compression stockings. This is because when blood circulation gets inhibited by a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, which causes damage to the nerves in the legs, you may not be able to determine whether the stockings are falling down or are too tight.
You will experience the side effects of compression stockings if you wear them for too long. This is why it is important to remove the stockings every day and also check your legs and feet for signs of irritation to the skin or damage. If you notice some form of irritation, you should consult your doctor immediately.
So compression stockings help with varicose veins? The answer is yes. Compression stockings may not completely treat varicose veins, but will help reduce the swelling, pain, and other associated symptoms of varicose veins. However, it is recommended that you choose compression stockings only after consulting your doctor. This is because only your doctor will be able to prescribe the correct level of compression that you require.
Keep your stockings and legs clean and dry and examine your legs daily to check for signs of damage and irritation to the skin. You should also replace your compression stockings every 3 to 6 months.