Compression Socks FAQ
Choosing the correct compression garment is important for your health and wellbeing but it can be very confusing. Use the guide below to learn more about how to pick the correct medical compression garments. Remember to always consult with a certified fitter when choosing a medical compression garment.
*Please note that this is a guide only and is not meant to be medical advice. If you’re concerned that you may have one of the symptoms listed below, consult your primary care provider for a proper evaluation.
What is Compression Therapy and how can wearing Compression Stockings help?
Medical compression therapy applies a type of elastic device on limbs or other body parts to exert a controlled pressure on them. Thereby, the device squeezes the vein walls together and improves the circulatory rate. Medical compression also helps with reduction of edema and recreates conditions beneficial for the healing of chronic inflammatory disorders. Maintaining good circulation is crucial to preventing and managing open wounds. Compression garments should be worn during the day and taken off at bedtime. The Compression Store offers support stockings and socks in a wide range of colors and styles that can be purchased over the counter. For moderate to severe swelling, your primary care provider may need to prescribe a stronger compression stocking or sock for you.
What is the difference in Compression Levels?
The higher the compression level or compression strength, the tighter the compression stocking. These levels are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). It's the same scale used to take your blood pressure. The most beneficial compression socks are “graduated” as opposed to “uniform” in strength. Graduated compression socks provide more compression at the ankle and decrease as they go up. The graduation helps push blood back up toward the heart, aiding in circulation.
For a Step by Step Measuring Guide click here
What is Edema?
“Swelling” is clinically referred to as edema. It refers to an increase in fluid under the skin, often seen in the lower legs around the ankles and feet. Edema is very different from lymphedema, a condition involving swelling caused by a build-up of protein-rich fluid in the lymphatic vessels. Over time, if lymphedema is not treated, the affected area will continue to increase in size.
What Causes Edema?
Edema may be found in conjunction with sports injuries, hot weather, post-surgery, pregnancy, varicose veins, airplane travel, and standing or sitting for extended lengths of time. Sometimes there are underlying medical conditions that contribute to the presence of edema. If you have questions or concerns about swelling, have a medical professional evaluate you.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a medical condition involving irregular blood sugar levels and insulin production. There are two kinds: Type 1, which develops in childhood and young adulthood; and Type 2, which develops in adulthood. Risk factors include family history of diabetes, obesity, Hispanic or African American ethnicity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
A common symptom associated with diabetes is having high blood sugar levels, which can breakdown the integrity of blood vessels and nerves in the body. This begins to effect blood circulation, most commonly in the eyes, kidneys and skin.
If you are diabetic or know someone who is, ask your primary care provider about the benefits of wearing graduated compression stockings or socks for preventative and diabetic care.
How Does Poor Circulation Affect Diabetics?
Over time, poor circulation causes decreased oxygenated blood to reach the skin. Diabetics are at risk for developing wounds and open ulcers in the lower legs and feet. Along with consistent skin care, proper footwear is a must.
Patients with diabetes should be aware of the risk of developing neuropathy--damaged nerves in the feet. This can be very painful, causing burning or stinging in the feet and usually gets worse at night. The feet may become numb. This poses a danger for diabetics who may step on sharp objects or puncture the bottom of the foot and not realize it. Diabetics should examine their feet every night for signs of trauma or redness and call a primary care provider if these signs are present.
Pregnancy and Varicose Veins
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through many changes, including an increase in blood volume and fluid; this fluid can remain in the interstitial spaces of the tissues, which may cause swelling, often in the legs, ankles and feet. Hormonal changes and weight-gain are two factors that contribute to the increased development of varicosities during pregnancy. Many times varicose veins will show up during the pregnancy and disappear soon after the baby is born.
The Compression Store carries Maternity Graduated Compression Stockings that are specially designed to expand with you during pregnancy, so there is no restriction in the abdominal region. Worn during the day, these compression stockings counteract swelling and protect against varicose veins by applying a light, soothing pressure to the exterior portion of the legs, which helps prevent fluid from accumulating. If you’re pregnant and are experiencing tired, aching legs, or excessive swelling in the lower legs and ankles, ask your primary care provider about wearing maternity graduated compression stockings.
Travel and DVT Prevention
Are you a frequent traveler? Flying long distance? Recent surgery or injury has prevented mobility? If so, you should know about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in the “deep” larger veins, usually in the legs. If the clot dislodges from the vein wall and becomes mobile, it will move through the venous system, and eventually, could block a vein of the heart, brain or lungs.
An effective way to keep your legs healthy during long periods of being immobile such as air travel, injury or after surgery is wearing graduated compression stocking. Compression stockings and socks exert a comfortable pressure on the outside of the leg to support the veins and vein valves. If you think you are at risk for a DVT, consult your primary care provider.
Who is at risk for DVT?
At risk are people who fly, sit or stand for long periods of time. Other contributing factors are: smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, being overweight, recent surgery injury with long periods of immobility or diagnosed vein disease.
How can I tell if I have DVT?
Unfortunately, DVT is a difficult condition to detect, and is often symptomless. If symptoms occur, they may include intense pain or cramping in the calves, tenderness, swelling, warmth or changes in skin color.
Your Circulation and Healthy Legs
Many factors contribute to the overall health of our legs: heredity, weight, age, diet and activity level. But it’s the internal function of the legs that also plays an important role: calf muscles, arteries, veins, and vein valves – the internal highway of blood and oxygen flow.
The flow of blood in the veins is assisted by a series of one-way valves. The valves remain open when the blood flows toward the heart, and then closed after blood passes through. Over time, an increase in pressure can stretch the vein walls. If a vein becomes enlarged and over-stretched the valves cannot close properly, causing blood to leak back down into the lower legs, resulting in poor circulation.
If this happens you may begin to develop symptoms, such as:
Heavy, tired, aching legs
Swollen legs and/or ankles
Sensation of warmth in the legs
Tingling or cramping of the legs
Dull or sharp pain in the calf
Small varicose veins and spider veins
Graduated compression stockings and socks are important to leg health. They help minimize muscle aches, swelling, and symptoms of fatigue. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle will strengthen your legs, but wearing graduated compression stockings or socks will support the internal function of the veins.
If you notice one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, we recommend that you consult with your primary care provider and ask about graduated compression stockings and socks. You’ll be glad that you did—and so will your legs!
What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a highly under-diagnosed condition that affects the lymphatic vessels, which are responsible for transporting protein-rich lymph fluid back into the circulatory system. When lymph vessels are unable to transport this fluid properly, a build-up occurs, resulting in swelling and the thickening of the skin.
Who is at risk?
If you have had a mastectomy, lumpectomy, radiation treatment, lymph node removal, surgeries, infections, or trauma to the limbs, you may be at risk for developing lymphedema.
How can I tell if I have lymphedema?
A common indicator of lymphedema is indentations that do not immediately disappear after the skin has been depressed by the hand or fingers. This condition is usually found in the legs and arms; however, lymphedema can affect any region of the body. Many people with lymphedema are labeled over-weight, yet lymphedema is not about fat storage.
Although many cases have no cure, lymphedema can be managed. Wearing compression garments is one of the most important aspects of managing lymphedema. Compression garments are designed to keep a continuous pressure on the swollen/affected area to assist the drainage of fluid and minimize swelling.
If you’re concerned that you may have lymphedema, consult a trained MLD therapist or your primary care provider for a proper evaluation.