Compression Stockings: Frequently Asked Questions

What are compression stockings?

Compression stockings are specialized long socks, which are worn from the foot to the knee/thigh. These specialized stockings have a gradient of pressure (tighter in the foot and gradually less tight at the knee). These stockings when worn properly reduce the swelling in the feet and also decrease the chance of blood clot formation in the legs.

How do compression stockings work?

Compression stockings are made of strong elastic material and fit tightly at the feet and gradually become less tight at the knee/thigh. The pressure in the stockings is graded and this allows for the stockings to constantly squeeze the leg muscles. This motion helps to drive blood back to the heart, reduce swelling in the feet and prevent blood clot formation.

What are Compression Stockings used to treat?

Compression stockings are an excellent and simple method of treating disorders such as chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, lymphedema, post phlebitic syndrome and prevention of blood clots in the leg. The stockings can be worn as either in-patient or out patient. The stockings do not eliminate the varicose veins but do help reduce the swelling, aching and heaviness feeling that individuals with varicose veins experience. It is also recommended that such stockings be worn during long plane rides to decrease the probability of blood clot formation in the legs.

Can compression stockings worn in hospital?

Blood clot formation is a major cause of deaths in the USA and the majority of hospital protocols recommend that all patients (especially those who can’t ambulate), be fitted with compression stockings.

How long should compression stockings be worn?

The stockings should be worn daily as long as patient is at increased risk of forming blood clots in the leg. The stockings should be worn during the day and removed at night. For those with varicose veins, venous ulcers and lymphedema, the stockings must be worn for years and even for life. It is highly recommended that whenever possible, individuals keep their legs elevated at night when they do not wear compression stockings.

How does one wear compression stockings?

The stockings should be worn first thing in the morning before one gets out of bed. Some practice is required to wear compression stockings. One may either turn the stockings inside out or apply a small amount of silicone lotion to assist in wearing the stockings. One may also place a rubber glove on the toes and then pass the stockings over them to wear the stockings. A good deal of pulling is required to get the stockings past the ankle. This gets easier when one is used to wearing the stockings.

Who should not wear compression stockings?

Compression stockings squeeze the muscles of the leg and drive blood away from the leg. In those patients who are diabetic, or those who smoke or those who have a decreased blood supply to the legs, compression stockings are not recommended. The compression stockings can decrease the blood supply further and worsen the disease.

Are there any complications associated with use of compression stockings?

There are no complications associated with compression stockings. However, they do take time to adjust to and the patient may complain of warm legs. The hot weather may occasionally deter individuals from wearing stockings all day.

Does one need a prescription to buy the stockings?

RThe stockings with good quality compression can be bought in most pharmacies and medical supply shops with a prescription. The stockings come in 3 different sizes from small, medium and large. The knee high stockings are much easier to wear and better tolerated than the thigh high stockings. Before buying the stocking, one should get the health care worker to asses the size of the leg and the best type of stocking. The compression stockings also come in various colors.

There are a variety of non prescriptions stockings but these do not provide the adequate level of compression required to prevent blood clots or leg swelling.

How much do compression stockings?

The price of stockings may range from $30-50 per pair. One pair may usually last about 6-12 months. It is best to hand wash these stockings to maintain their elasticity.


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