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Compression Stockings: Truth and fiction

Written By: Emma Squillace

If someone suffers from varicose veins, one of the first recommendations they may hear from friends is to try compression stockings. But is this an old wives’ tale, or a legitimate medical option? To answer that question, let’s first look at what a varicose vein is, then we’ll discuss how compression stockings may or may not help.

Understanding varicose veins

A varicose vein is a vein that is not working properly, and has become twisted or bumpy. The vein may appear raised and a bluish purple color. Most often, varicose veins occur in the legs although they can also be found in the arms, breasts or other areas of the body. Anyone can get varicose veins, but they more often occur as we age, and are seen in women more frequently than men. There is no way to predict who will get varicose veins, but here are some factors that make them more likely:

  •      Being overweight or obese
  •      Being female
  •      Pregnancy
  •      Genetic predisposition
  •      Hormone changes including medications like birth control pills
  •      Having an occupation where you have to stand or sit in one position for a lot of the day

Symptoms of varicose veins

For many people, varicose veins cause discomfort on a daily basis. Some people feel like their legs are heavy, and that it’s harder for them to walk or sleep comfortably. Others find the varicose veins hurt or itch. In some cases, varicose veins can lead to wounds taking longer to heal. And beyond these daily symptoms, there are more dangerous potential associations with varicose veins such as ulcers and blood clots. When someone has varicose veins, the blood does not flow back to their heart correctly, and instead it pools in parts of twisted, damaged veins.

Why compression stockings may help

With an understanding of the symptoms that varicose veins can cause, we can talk about why compression stockings are sometimes recommended. A compression stocking is a tight garment that squeezes the leg. This can help people with varicose veins, because when the veins are squeezed, this can help regulate the blood flow and reduce swelling. With the blood less likely to pool, symptoms of varicose veins can be diminished. Sometimes you’ll hear about someone being told to wear compression stockings on a flight. This is because the stockings can also help lower the risk of a blood clot forming in the leg, and flights are a particular risky time for people with compromised blood flow.

Limitation of compression stockings

While compression stockings can be useful for temporarily alleviating some varicose vein symptoms, it is important to understand that they cannot cure a varicose vein. Once a vein has been damaged – as in the case with a varicose vein – it has no way to heal itself. The only way to ‘fix’ a varicose vein is through medical treatment.

Additionally, some people find compression stockings to be uncomfortable. If you get stockings that do not fit well, or have trouble putting them on correctly, they may not provide the comfortable, consistent pressure that’s best for alleviating varicose vein symptoms.

Should I get compression stockings?

If you are looking for temporary relief for the symptoms of mild varicose veins, it may be worth a try to use compression stockings. Remember though that these are tools that can make your days more comfortable, but they will in no way help to repair the damaged veins, or improve your varicose veins. If you have moderate to severe varicose veins, it is unlikely that compression stockings will bring you sufficient relief from your symptoms.

For those with moderate to severe varicose veins, insurance may cover your treatment. At West Medical we offer a range of the most minimally invasive procedures available, to get rid of varicose veins. This is the only way to stop the ongoing physical discomfort, as well as return your legs to a more youthful appearance. Our successful treatments include sclerotherapy and laser treatment. If you’re wondering if it is time to get vein treatment, we are happy to speak to you and make sure you have all the information you need to decide. You can always reach our supportive team at (855) 690-0565.

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