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Thinking about buying compression stockings? Here’s what you need to know.
Whether you have varicose veins, are at risk for the condition, or simply want to prevent a blood clot during a long plane ride, your vein specialist will likely recommend investing in compression stockings. Obtained at a drugstore or through a prescription, these garments are made of strong elastic fabric that applies gentle pressure to the leg veins so blood flows from the extremities to the heart. By supporting circulation, compression stockings prevent swelling and pooling of blood in the veins — the leading cause of varicose veins and blood clots.
But which type of compression stocking should you buy? Luckily, compression stockings come in a variety of strengths and styles from which to choose. Here are some pointers before you make your purchase.
The Basics of Compression Stockings
The most important component of a compression stocking is its strength, or how much pressure the stockings exert on the leg. Measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury), the higher the mmHg number, the stronger the compression stocking.
If you’re looking for over-the-counter compression stockings to reduce swelling and the symptoms of varicose veins, or you’re planning a long plane ride, compression stockings with an mmHg between 15-20 are fine.
Compression stockings at the higher numbers — 20 to 30 mmHg and above — are usually prescribed for varicose veins, recovery from sclerotherapy (a treatment for varicose veins), or to prevent deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot that forms in the leg veins and could travel to the lungs. For prescription-strength compression stockings, a medical professional will measure your leg for a proper fit. Be sure to get your measurements done in the morning, when swelling is less severe.
Pressure is strongest at the ankle and gradually lessens as the stocking goes up the leg. You can buy compression stockings with or without a foot. Cost varies depending upon the strength and type you purchase, but typically cost between $10 to $100 a pair.
The type of compression stockings you need depends on where the swelling is most severe. If the swelling is mostly in the calf, knee-high stockings help control the symptoms of varicose veins. Just be sure to not pull the stockings above the knee; this could lead to the garments slipping down or bunching up, which may make the swelling worse. Swelling that affects the entire leg can be controlled with thigh- or waist-high compression stockings.
Compression stockings can be made of opaque or sheer fabric. Opaque compression stockings are the most common type and provide the most durability and strength. Sheer fabrics are more transparent, but are not as strong as opaque stockings and may easily snag.
Whichever style or strength you select, the stockings should feel snug, but not uncomfortable. The stockings must fit smoothly along the skin, and not gather around the ankle. If the stockings pinch the ankles, they could cut off circulation.
Putting on compression stockings can be difficult at first, but with practice it becomes easier. To start, you can fold the stocking inside out, slip it over your foot, and then slowly roll it up over the entire calf or leg. Some people use a device called a stocking donner to help them put on the item, as well.
Learn More About Compression Stockings
At the Center for Vein Restoration, we offer a complete menu of services to treat varicose veins, ranging from minimally invasive surgeries to compression therapy. We’ll discuss the best compression stockings available to reduce your varicose vein discomfort. Our staff can help you choose the right pair for you and show you how to put on the stockings, as well. Contact us today for an appointment.