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Compression stockings are designed to improve blood circulation. Doctors may suggest that their patients wear compression socks or compression stockings after undergoing varicose vein treatment. Compression stockings can help improve results after sclerotherapy injections. While the most effective compression stockings must often be obtained with a prescription, a variety of over-the-counter compression socks are also available.
Compression socks come in a variety of compression levels as well as lengths (knee-high, thigh or panty), color, and styles (open vs. closed toe). They are designed to gently squeeze the legs, which promotes good blood flow in the veins. Patients with venous disease may benefit from wearing compression socks or compression stockings even if they have not recently undergone sclerotherapy treatment for varicose veins. Compression shorts may be used by pregnant women to help with blood flow near reproductive organs.
Compression socks and compression stockings are made of a material that has a very high elasticity. Because of this, they often feel tight when a patient first wears them, which is completely normal. Compression socks and compression stockings encourage upward flow so that blood is more likely to move toward the heart rather than collect in the legs and feet.
Compression can be dangerous for patients with arterial insufficiency—poor arterial blood circulation as can be found in patients with diabetes, atherosclerosis and other arterial vascular disorders. It is essential to consult a vein specialist before using compression stockings.
There are a number of high quality brands of compression socks and compression stockings available on the market. Medi, Juzo, JOBST® and Sigvaris are among the best brands. Compression socks come in two general categories:
- Gradient Socks — Gradient socks work to increase blood flow in the veins located inside the calf muscles. They are tightest at the ankle and gradually loosen higher up the legs. Their design may assist patients who are more likely to develop blood clots and who experience symptoms of poor circulation when they sit or lay down for a long period of time. Unlike anti-embolism socks, gradient socks are more often prescribed to the ambulatory patient, or those who are walking.
- Anti-Embolism Socks—the TED brand is the most popular anti-embolism socks. Anti-embolism stockings are prescribed to non-ambulatory patients, or those who are unable to walk or who are recovering from a surgical procedure. They are designed to reduce the risk of blood clots in bed-ridden patients.
Contact a DoctorQA vein specialist to determine if compression treatment is right for you.
Reviewed by Steven E. Zimmet, MD, RVT, FACPh
Editor of Phlebology
President, Zimmet Vein & Dermatology
Past-President, American College of Phlebology