Every article you read about how to treat varicose veins includes wearing compression stockings or compression socks.
But the idea of wearing compression stockings makes many people uncomfortable. Not only physically uncomfortable but worried that they may look bad wearing them. That’s probably why one of the most common questions clients ask us is: Is it worth wearing compression stockings for my varicose veins?
Our answer is: The best way to find out is to try! You may be surprised by how much compression socks and stockings can help your symptoms.
How Do Compression Socks Work?
To understand how these work, you must first get a handle on what causes varicose veins. Varicose veins occur when weak vein valves don’t keep your blood moving back to the heart. Instead, they let blood pool up, causing the vein to swell and bulge.
Compression socks and compression stockings can reduce the amount of blood pooling in your legs and the associated swelling. They do this by squeezing your leg tighter at the bottom than at the top, pushing your blood back up your legs toward your heart. We call this type of pressure graduated pressure.
Compression socks are recommended by doctors and vein specialists to
- relieve achy and swollen legs
- slow down the deterioration of varicose veins
- reduce recurrence of varicose veins after treatment
- reduce the risk of venous leg ulcers returning after they have healed
- relieve varicose vein symptoms during pregnancy
Vein Specialists also recommend that patients wear compression stockings after varicose veins surgery.
Compression stockings are valuable in treating varicose veins because they assist the body in circulating blood. Varicose veins are one of many venous diseases that are associated with problematic blood flow. Other common conditions that require compression therapy include the following.
- Spider veins
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Shin splints
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
- Post-thrombotic syndrome
Most patients with these conditions can benefit from compression therapy. However, if you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, peripheral artery disease, dermatitis, or skin infections, they may worsen these conditions and lead to more severe complications.
What is Medical Compression?
Not all compression socks are the same. The ones you usually find in your local store are not appropriate for use with varicose veins. They may be perfect for a hiking trip or for people who stand for long hours at their jobs, but if you need relief from varicose vein symptoms, you need to get medical compression socks and stockings.
Medical compression is a graduated compression, meaning they’re tighter at the ankle than they are at the calf. And if you wear stockings, the amount of squeeze keeps decreasing the closer the stockings are to your hips. Medical compression socks and stockings are manufactured under strict medical and technical specifications to provide a specific pressure level and graduation of compression.
Support hose, support tights, and flight socks do not provide the amount of compression that medical compression socks and stockings do. And the amount of squeeze they give your legs is the same from top to bottom.
Compression socks and stockings are sold in different compressions levels. Your doctor or vein specialist can recommend the right amount of compression for your situation. A good medical grade will be between 20-30 mmHg.
Generally speaking, there are four main levels of compression:
- Mild compression is used for mild chronic venous insufficiency. It supports healthy blood flow so your legs can feel lighter.
- Moderate compression is more effective. It is usually recommended after you have developed symptoms of spider or varicose veins.
- Firm and extra firm compression are typically recommended in more severe cases of venous disease like deep vein thrombosis, leg ulcers, and lymphatic edema.
Can Compression Stockings Reduce the Appearance of Varicose Veins?
The appearance of varicose veins can be unsettling. Many people who have varicose veins are not comfortable wearing shorts, dresses, or swimsuits because they’re embarrassed by how their legs look. Unfortunately, compression socks will not reduce the appearance of varicose veins, but they will cover them up. Today, compression socks and stockings can be quite stylish! But if you want to have smooth, unblemished skin again, you’ll need to commit to a varicose vein treatment like laser surgery.
Although compression stockings won’t directly reduce the appearance of varicose veins, they can support the health of your skin. Since compression stockings reduce swelling, they also reduce the risk of skin damage, brown or irritated skin, and venous ulcers.
Can Varicose Veins Go Away With Compression Stockings?
Compression socks will not make your varicose veins magically disappear. They can help relieve symptoms, slow down the deterioration of the vein, and help prevent new varicose veins from forming, but they will not make your varicose veins go away. The only way to get rid of varicose veins is to have them removed. Many insurance companies require that patients try alternative treatment options like compression stockings before agreeing to approve vein removal laser treatments, sclerotherapy, or surgery.
Can Compression Socks Reverse Varicose Veins?
No. No, compression stockings will not reverse varicose veins. Unfortunately, they don’t treat the underlying cause. However, they can help with itchy skin and tired, aching legs if you wear them regularly. Once you stop wearing them, however, your symptoms will return.
What’s the Difference Between Compression Socks and Compression Stockings?
There isn’t much difference between compression socks and compression stockings. Just like regular socks and stockings, compression socks are shorter while compression stockings can go as high as your thigh. Another difference is that most of the time, compression socks can be worn with or without shoes while compression stockings must be worn with shoes.
Are You Ready to Give Compression Socks a Try?
We’re here to help, and we’ll get you set up with the right compression socks or stockings for your varicose veins. And while you’re here, we’ll be happy to talk with you about getting rid of those varicose veins for good! Contact us for a consultation today.