Varicose veins often develop as people age, especially those who work in occupations where they spend long hours on their feet. Compression stockings can be a useful part of conservative therapy for varicose veins and are also used after medical vein treatment such as sclerotherapy. Here are the basics about compression stockings from Dr. Chris Pittman of Vein 911 in Tampa, Florida.

Why Compression Stockings?

Arteries depend on blood pressure to move blood, while veins need muscle contractions in the legs. Flaps of tissue called valves prevent the blood from flowing backwards but can become weak or ineffective, which leads to venous insufficiency and varicose veins. Compression stockings can help prevent some of these problems if properly fitted and worn consistently. After treatment, they may also be used to help provide support and prevent swelling or to make treated veins collapse and scar closed.

What Are Compression Stockings?

Compression stockings are designed to help improve blood flow and prevent swelling or pooling of blood in the legs. Made from strong elastic, they apply graduated pressure so they are tighter at the feet and the fit gradually becomes looser farther up the leg. Compression stockings come in various lengths from knee to thigh high; they may be individual stockings for each leg or be made like pantyhose. Although various brands of stockings are available, the best compression stockings are custom-fitted by experts who have been properly trained.

How Do I Wear Compression Stockings?

Most people need to wear compression stockings all day, or at least when on their feet. Correct fit means they are snug but comfortable. You’ll need a prescription for them and should buy them from a store that offers fitting services. Expect them to last about four to six months. You should put them on first thing in the morning, which is when you have the least swelling in your legs (keep them right by the bed to make it easier). They can be washed as necessary – they will last longer if air-dried.

What If I Have Trouble Getting Them On?

When you first get your compression stockings, wash them before wearing, as it helps make them more flexible. Sit in a chair for support and to prevent you from falling. Roll or gather the stocking down to the toe and fit it over the toes, then gradually slide the stockings over your legs. Don’t grab or pull the top of the stocking, as it may increase the risk of a tear in the material. You may find it helpful to wear rubber gloves to help you grip the stocking material. You might also want to powder your legs or use cornstarch before putting on the stockings.

Compression stockings can make a big difference if you have varicose veins that cause symptoms such as burning, itching or pain. They also help you heal after venous medical procedures like sclerotherapy. If you have questions or concerns about compression stockings, please call Vein 911 for more information.