Compression stockings

These are a special type of stocking which fits tightly around the leg and is designed to improve blood circulation. These stockings squeeze the muscles in the legs which help pump blood around the body.

They are also useful at easing any swelling, pain or discomfort, but, they are not a cure for varicose veins.

They take a little bit of time to get used to and can be uncomfortable in warm or hot weather. But many people find them helpful. 

Concept behind compression stockings

A compression stocking is designed so that it fits snugly around your ankle but is a looser fit further up your leg. The idea behind that is that it will force blood to flow up towards your heart.

There are different types of compression stockings and all of these help to alleviate the swelling, pain and heaviness caused by varicose veins.

However they do not stop new varicose veins from developing.

But what they are especially good at is reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is particularly useful for long distance travel, e.g. long haul flights.

What is a compression stocking made from?

These stockings are made from a tight, elastic style of material which is strong and durable. They are made in such a way that the pressure is graded in the stocking, starting with the most pressure in the foot through to the least amount of pressure at the knee or thigh.

Several types of compression stocking

There are different types of stockings which are available in a range of strengths, sizes, colour and styles. There are stockings which reach as far as your knee whereas others extend all the way up to your thigh.

Some stockings cover the whole of your foot but others leave your toes exposed.

One example of a compression stocking is a "size 2" stocking which is classed as a medium form of compression.

The type of stocking you wear will be decided by your GP or your pharmacist.

Compression stockings are not available on the NHS. You can buy them from a pharmacy or online.

How to wear compression stockings

It is a good idea to get into a routine when wearing these stockings. This means putting them on as soon as you get up in the morning and taking them off before you go to bed.

Elevate your legs when you have removed the stockings. This will ensure that blood will flow upwards towards your heart and keep your circulation functioning as normal.

Pull the stocking on over your leg and check that it fits correctly and that it compresses the parts of the leg it is designed to do. Do not roll the stocking down or allow it to do so as it will leave an impression on your leg which is also uncomfortable.

Wearing compression stockings for a long period of time will cause the skin on your legs to become dry and flaky. This can be avoided by applying a moisturising cream to your legs which will ensure that the skin remains smooth and hydrated.

If you find that they are causing dry skin, do not fit properly or are uncomfortable to wear then speak to your GP. You may need a pair of custom made stockings instead.

Looking after compression stockings

It is important to follow any instructions given about compression stockings and to care for them on a regular basis. This type of stocking will last up to 6 months and will need to be replaced after then.

If they become worn or damaged in any way during that time then ask your GP to prescribe you a new pair.

Your GP may prescribe you two pairs of stockings so that you always have one pair on and one in the wash. Wash your stockings by hand and dry them away from direct heat.

Unsuitable for compression stockings

Most people are able to wear compression stockings but there are a few people who for a variety of reasons are not advised to wear these.

They include diabetics, people with circulation problems and smokers.

Guide to Varicose Veins

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