Compression Stockings for Varicose Veins: What You Need to Know

by | Nov 15, 2022 | Blog, Vein Care, Vein Clinic

If you’ve got varicose veins, your vein doctor may recommend you start wearing compression stockings. But what do compression stockings do exactly? And are they effective? 

With different pressures, lengths, and styles available, figuring out the right type of stockings to slip on can feel like a challenge. We’ll make it simple. In this post, we’ll explore what compression stockings do, the different types available, and their benefits. 

But first, let’s look at what compression stockings treat. 

 

Understanding Varicose Veins

Compression stockings are used to treat spider and varicose veins

If you don’t already know, varicose veins are swollen, enlarged veins that show up on the legs and feet. They’re usually lumpy and blue or purple in color. They can bulge out of the skin and sometimes resemble twisted tree branches. 

Varicose veins don’t always lead to physical symptoms, however. But if symptoms do occur, they tend to involve: 

  • Aching and heavy legs
  • Swollen ankles and feet
  • A burning or throbbing sensation in the legs
  • Muscle cramps in legs, especially during the night 
  • Dry, itchy skin on the legs 

If varicose veins aren’t causing you any pain or discomfort, treatment isn’t necessary. 

But if you do need some form of treatment, one of the first things your varicose vein doctor may ask you to try is a pair of compression stockings. 

 

How do Compression Stockings Help Varicose Veins? 

Compression stockings help quite simply, by improving circulation. They do this by gently squeezing your legs, encouraging your blood vessels to perform their job properly. The arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood can then relax, allowing your blood to flow toward the heart with ease. 

These special stockings work to prevent swelling, fatigue, and achiness in your legs. And in some people, compression stockings can even reduce the appearance of varicose veins. 

 

Can Compression Stockings Get Rid of Varicose Veins? 

Unfortunately, they can’t. They reduce the symptoms associated with varicose veins as you wear them. However, once they come off, the symptoms come right back. 

 

What Level of Pressure do Your Stockings Need? 

To identify your perfect pair of compression stockings, it’s best to consult your doctor. They know their stuff. 

Generally, the pressure you need correlates with the severity of your varicose vein problem.  

  • Mild compression (15-20 mmHg)

Mild compression stockings are available over the counter and are an everyday option to support blood flow. They help reduce mild swelling and fatigue, particularly from prolonged travel, sitting, and standing. 

An average person could benefit from wearing these compression stockings on long plane journeys, to compensate for almost no legroom! 

  • Moderate compression (20-30 mmHG – medical grade 1) 

Moderate compression is the first level of medical-grade compression and is a good choice if you’re experiencing symptoms of either spider or varicose veins. People use these stockings to manage swelling in their legs, treat post-surgery symptoms, or deal with leg heaviness and aches during pregnancy. 

These too come in a range of lengths and styles, with everything from knee-high to thigh-high available. 

  • Medical Grade Class II 30-40 mmHg

Firm and extra compression are used for serious vein-related problems, such as leg ulcers, lymphatic edema, and deep vein thrombosis. The fabrics you choose ought to be more durable. Thin materials can tear and snag!

These stockings are much tighter than the ones mentioned above. 

  • Medical Grade Class III 40-50 mmHg

This is the strongest level of compression. 

No one should buy these compression stockings without first consulting a vein doctor. These stockings are used for severe vein-related conditions, such as wound management and lymphedema. They’re the heavy-duty option. 

Needless to say, these are tight! 

 

Thigh-Highs or Knee-Highs? 

When it comes to the length of your compression stockings, you can choose between knee-high or thigh-high. But which should you choose? Do their benefits differ?  

The most popular choice is the knee-high option, which means they’re much easier to hunt down when shopping. 

When it comes to comfort, most find knee-high stockings have the edge. As they cover the lower legs, knee-highs are also ideal for treating conditions like peripheral edema.  

Since these are the most popular type of compression stockings, they’re also more affordable and come in a range of styles. Should you want your stockings in bright colors or unique patterns, you’ll find them. 

Thigh-highs, however, are sometimes chosen for more severe problems. Thigh-highs cover more area than knee-highs, including the quads, knees, and hamstrings. So, if you’re experiencing swelling above the knee, or your varicose veins are climbing up your legs, thigh-highs might be your better match.  

Proper Wear and Care

Whatever compression stockings you use, make sure the material is smooth and lies flat against your skin. Don’t roll them down to adjust the length, and don’t let them bunch up. You don’t want them too tight or too loose. 

Compression stockings can be worn all day, but it’s best to take them off before bed. Although there’s no harm in wearing them 24/7, there’s just no need. Give your legs a break and slip them off before you call it a night.  

Always wash your stockings between 86 -100 Fahrenheit. Over time, they’ll become looser, so be sure to switch them out every 3-6 months if you want to reap the benefits.

 

Compression Stockings Aren’t Always Safe

Not everyone should wear compression stockings. Those with arterial disease, for example, might experience unwanted side effects, including a worsening of their condition. So, it’s always best to speak to a doctor before you get yourself a pair! 

 

Consult a Vein Doctor 

If you want to use compression stockings to treat your varicose veins, consult your vein doctor to see if they’re right for you and get the best recommendations. You might even discover other options to minimize your symptoms. 

 

See Dr. Sonja Miller in Mentor Ohio – a Specialist in Varicose Vein Disease

If you’re in Ohio and want compression stockings, speak to our Ohio varicose vein expert in Mentor for recommendations on top-notch compression stockings for you and your condition.   

Contact us today to book an appointment for expert advice on dealing with your varicose veins. We’ll help you manage your vein-related conditions with compassion and care.