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A Beginner's Guide To Graduated Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are a type of hosiery specially designed to apply pressure to your lower legs with the intention of maintaining blood flow and reduce swelling. They can be worn to increase recovery, to prevent a medical condition or as a prescription for certain conditions. They come in different designs, styles, sizes and strengths. With such a variety, it won’t be wrong to say that they have become a style statement today. It is generally advised to consult a doctor to figure out which would be most apt for your body type and medical condition.
Who Is It For?
Compression stockings are of great use by people who:
- Have or are showing symptoms of venous disorders such as Edema, Thrombosis, or Phlebitis.
- Have diabetes
- Are pregnant
- Sit or stand for a prolonged period of time due to work or medical conditions, such as nurses, technicians, flight attendants, truck drives, etc.
How Do Compression Socks Work?
Compression stockings are elastic garments much like tights and pantyhose, but they are made of different materials. The stockings are tight around the ankle and gradually decreases the pressure and feel much lighter around the thighs or calves.
- Reduce the diameter of the swollen veins
- Increase the velocity of the blood flow within the veins
- reduce fatigue of tired achy legs and feet
- Increases valve effectiveness
- Also prevents a possible blood clot.
In the case of athletes, there are two notions that currently exist:
- The increased valve effectiveness will help the muscles receive oxygen more efficiently. This will help prevent tissue damage and reduce muscle soreness after the activity. It will eventually reduce cramps.
- Some believe the stockings improve athletic performance for the same reasons listed above but while there are personal experiences of different people. Statistical study and biological research do not suggest any real performance enhancement.
Conditions Wherein Compression Stockings Benefit:
- Deep Vein Thrombosis:
It is a condition where blood clots are formed, often inside the thighs or lower legs. It is mainly because of decreased blood flow. Symptoms include swelling and becoming heavily sensitive to touch. Being overweight or addicted to smoking or even a recent surgical experience can become a factor in its development. Pilots are known to be prone to DVT because of the excessive hours of being seated in a confined space. It’s common for pilots to wear them as a method of prevention.
- Varicose Veins:
Developed when the veins swell and expand considerably and therefore hinders the blood flow. The appearance of varicose veins will cause immense pain, and this condition will not disappear on its own. Symptoms include ankle swelling, veins pop out and protrude, cramps and aching. Causes include pregnancy, obesity, menopause, aging and prolonged standing. It is noted to be hereditary and more often seen in women.
Swelling that happens in the arms or legs due to building up lymph fluids. The lymphatic system fails to carry these fluids either due to damage in the nodes or removal of the nodes as part of the cancer treatment. Lymphedema is essentially incurable but can be prevented and stopped in early stages. Symptoms include swelling of arms, legs or both, restricted range of motion, recurring infections and thickening of the skin. Causes include surgical removal of lymph nodes, radiation treatment for cancer and infection within the nodes.
It refers to the clotting of blood and inflammation in veins due to infection, surgery or the occurrence of varicose veins or thrombosis. Symptoms include a burning sensation, localized redness, and swelling, vein protrusion.
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency:
The blood pools in the veins and sufficient deoxygenated blood cannot be pumped back to the heart. Symptoms include hyperpigmentation, itching, ulcers, etc. Diseases like DVT, Phlebitis and Varicose Veins can all be reasons for the development of CVI.
The hormones released during pregnancy and the expansion of the uterus can also affect the veins. These stockings can prevent the development of any of the above-mentioned diseases during this stage.
Types of Compression Stockings:
There are two specific types of compression stockings:
Most commonly prescribed kind of stockings where the pressure gradually reduces from the ankle to the thigh. This type of stocking can cover a range of conditions. The pressure for these types of stockings can range from 10-40mmHg or even higher.
Anti-embolism stockings are made with constant pressure and are prescribed for immobile or bedridden patients to prevent thrombosis. The pressure ranges from 8-18mmHg.
These stockings can also come in various sizes and forms like Knee-High, Thigh-High and Ankle-high.
- Arm Sleeve
Patients with lymphedema and similar swelling on the arms can wear compression sleeves that were derived from the stockings for such conditions. They come with the same amount of pressure as the gradient/anti-embolism stockings.
Though not as common, it is also seen that these venous disorders can affect the hands and forearms. So, specially designed compression gloves and gauntlets were made to combat this.
Compression socks are a lifestyle addition and a therapeutic aid. There are plenty of reasons for someone to buy one of these even without all these diseases. They come in various designs and style and thus, are appealing too. No wonder a lot of patients, who used compression socks because they were prescribed to, eventually started making it a part of their style.
Choose your compression stocking as per your medical condition. If it’s your ankle that’s causing trouble, knee-high socks should be enough. If there’s swelling above the knee or on thighs, consider opting for waist high compression stockings. You can easily find good compression socks online on websites like compressiongo.com. They have great return policies and a variety of compression socks and stockings to choose from.