Chronic venous disease affects millions of people causing a number of problems of the legs and feet, from little “spider” veins to painful large varicose veins and, at it’s worst, venous skin ulcers. Most patients come to our clinic somewhere in the middle; they have noticeable varicose veins and pain and are rightfully concerned about the health of their legs.
Venous disease of the legs is caused by a combination of “weak” veins and the effects of gravity. Veins in the legs are supposed to conduct blood upward toward the heart, aided by one way valves. Usually simply a family trait, many people develop weak vein walls and valves. Gravity then causes the venous blood to reflux back down the legs which leads to even more venous pressure, dilating the veins further and worsening this vicious cycle. This all leads to enlarging varicose veins, pain and swelling, unhealthy skin and, for some, skin breakdown and venous ulcers. The worst of the problems are usually lower in the legs and the ankles since this is where gravity exerts the most pressure.
It makes sense that to treat this one could try to physically redirect the venous blood from the legs back toward the heart the way it’s supposed to be going. Compression stockings are so helpful because they accomplish just that.
The idea behind compression stockings is that they apply graduated compression. This means that they are designed to be strongest at the foot and ankle and less so as they go up the leg. This results in pressing the venous blood from the skin and weak superficial veins into deeper and healthier veins and back up toward the heart.
There are many studies showing that proper compression stockings improve circulation, reduce toxins in the blood, reduce swelling and improve pain and other symptoms. Patients in many studies report significantly improved quality of life. We certainly find this to be true in our clinic where we’ve helped thousands of patients with venous disease of varying severities.
Graduated compression is almost indispensable in healing and in preventing recurrence of venous ulcers. The stockings are very helpful after leg venous procedures in reducing problems like bruising and improving the effectiveness of the treatment. Compression stockings also likely reduce the risk of deep vein clots (which can embolize to the lung among other problems) after surgeries and during travel.
Varicose veins and other venous disease symptoms can be particularly severe in pregnancy. As the uterus enlarges it applies more and more pressure on the large veins of the pelvis which in turn leads to more blood pressure in the leg veins. Hormonal changes of pregnancy also weaken leg veins. Many pregnant women particularly find compression stockings helpful to reduce swelling, varicosities and pain.
Compression stockings have a bit of a bad reputation among those less knowledgable. Some people remember their Grandma’s heavy, ugly stockings which were almost impossible to get on and seemed terribly uncomfortable.
But compression socks have come a long way since then. Modern stockings are designed to fit your particular leg dimensions; this is why getting measured and fitted by a true stocking expert is so important and partly why the stockings feel better and are more effective than in the past. Newer engineering and materials make them much more breathable and comfortable. These days there are also a variety of colors and designs available to suit everyone.
Modern graduated fitted compression stockings are the cornerstone of treatment for chronic venous insufficiency of the legs and, along with vein procedures, help many people with this disease.Join Our Newsletter