Are your legs and feet often swollen and uncomfortable? There may be many reasons why this occurs but swelling in your legs, also known as edema, should not be taken lightly. According to Wrong Diagnosis, swelling in your leg is an abnormal condition that can be temporary or chronic and can be the symptom of mild to serious medical conditions. The persistent build up of fluid in your lower extremities can be quite painful and uncomfortable but this can be controlled with treatment. As part of your treatment regime your doctor may order compression stockings for you to wear.
What are compression stockings?
Compression stockings, or support stockings are designed for the purpose of providing support for your legs and keeping blood and fluid from pooling in your legs, thus reducing swelling and leg fatigue. They provide support in a gradual manner, also known as gradient support, from the ankle upwards. Compression stockings are tightest at the ankle area but the tightness eases as the stocking goes towards the top of the calf. These stockings have been proven to be very effective in reducing edema in the legs and feet. The stockings are designed to provide compression in a way that enables the blood in your legs to flow more efficiently back to your heart. Some compression stockings are knee high and others are thigh high stockings or panty hose. Some compression stockings do not cover the toes.
Reasons why you may need to wear compression stockings
There are several medical conditions that might require you to need the extra support that compression stockings provides. This list is not inclusive but shows some of the more common conditions that may require the use of compression stockiings:
Post-surgery – If you are having surgery, your doctor may want you to wear some form of support stockings to prevent you from developing blood clots from inactivity while you are hospitalized and during recuperation.
Chronic Leg ulcers – If you are prone to have leg ulcers your doctor may order the compression stockings to help reduce the swelling and aid in healing the ulcers.
Mild lower extremity edema is other common reason for wearing compression stockings. If you are either up on your feet a lot during the day or sitting for long periods of time, you can also benefit from wearing them. Persons who travel can also find them quite helpful.
Varicose veins, which are tortuous, bulging veins in the veins of the legs, can also respond favorably to compression stockings. According to USA Today Healthscout, 15 percent of adults, mostly women, will develop varicose veins.
Venous thrombosis – A blood clot that forms in the large veins of the leg can be very serious, especially if the clot is large. Wearing compression stockings will help reduce the risk of clot formation.
Pregnancy- The veins of the legs are put under a lot of stress during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. Compression stockings can help the leg swelling and pain by giving additional support.
How to buy compression stockings
Your doctor will write you a prescription for the compression stockings and will decide what level of compression you need. These stockings are made of strong elastic material and are ordered in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), based on the level of compression that you require. For example 8-15 mmHg or 15-30 mmHg for mild compression and up to 30-40 mmHg or 40-50 mmHg if the leg edema is severe. Popular brand names for compression stockings include Jobst, Juzo, Mediven and Sigvaris.
You can take this prescription to a medical supply store to purchase them. Some compression hose can also be purchased at drugstores. If you are sure of the size you can also order them online. You can buy compression stockings without a prescription but these do not provide the level of compression as the others. Your ankles, calf and leg length should be measured to assure the correct size. The prices will vary in the $35 to $80 range depending on the thickness and style you need. One pair should last about six months, so when you consider the monthly and daily investment and the benefits gained, the cost is quite reasonable.
How to put on compression stockings
Many patients complain about the difficulty they have in putting on compression stockings. They will take more time to put on than a regular sock or stocking for sure, but once you learn the technique, you will be able to apply them more quickly. An elderly person may need some assistance in applying the stockings. It is a good idea to wash them before the first application. This will give them a little more “give”. Although written instructions will be given when you purchase the stockings, it’s much easier to understand how to apply them by watching someone do it. Here’s a video from The Eldercare Team that shows the proper way to apply the compression stockings. Click here to see the video: “How to put on compression stockings”
1) If you have an open wound on your leg, always dress it carefully before applying the stockings.
2) Washing the compression stockings by hand will help them to last longer.
3) It is easier to put on your stockings first thing in the morning when your legs are not as swollen.
4) Be sure the stockings are on smoothly with no wrinkles as this will hinder the effectiveness and might impair circulation.
Everyday Health: “Using compression stockings to prevent DVT and its symptoms”
Vein Treatment: “Compression stockings”
The Compression Store: “Frequently asked questions”
The Eldercare Team: “How to put on compression stockings’
USA Today Health Encyclopedia: “Varicose veins”