Compression therapy for varicose veins & deep vein thrombosis
What is compression therapy for varicose veins?
Compression stockings help relieve the symptoms of varicose veins. They improve circulation and are a mainstay of treatment for varicose veins that are causing symptoms. (Mild varicose veins that are not causing symptoms do not need treatment.) Compression stockings are tightest at the foot. They gradually loosen as they fit higher on the leg. Doctors often recommend that you wear the stockings during the day to help relieve symptoms.
For very mild symptoms, you may want to start out using regular support pantyhose, knee-highs, or knee socks (which end just above the calf, below the knee). You may find that these help swelling and aching considerably. They are also less expensive than the special compression stockings a doctor prescribes, and they are available at most department stores or online.
For more serious symptoms, you may want to buy special compression stockings from a medical supply store (with a doctor’s prescription), where you can be fitted for them.
Compression stockings can be comparatively expensive. They may be a bit difficult to put on, and it may take you awhile to get used to wearing them all day. If they fit right, they should be snug but comfortable. If you have problems wearing the stockings, be sure to talk to your doctor. Consider any problems you may have with compression stockings compared with the chance that they may help keep your problem from getting worse and may help you avoid surgery. Avoid elastic bandages for varicose veins unless your doctor specifically suggests them. They can cut off blood flow and may make varicose veins worse. (If this type of bandage is recommended, ask how to wrap it.)
Compression therapy for deep vein thrombosis
Specially fitted compression stockings are designed to help blood circulate in your legs. They may help prevent deep vein thrombosis. If you have had deep vein thrombosis, they might help relieve symptoms and prevent problems. Compression stockings are tight at the feet with a gradually looser fit on the leg (graduated compression). They are as thick as two pairs of regular pantyhose and cover the leg from the arch of your foot to just below or above your knee. Compression stockings are also available as pantyhose or trouser socks.
You can buy them from a medical supply store or a pharmacy if you have a doctor’s prescription. And some stockings are available without a prescription. These can be purchased online. If you buy online, be sure to buy the correct compression level recommended by your doctor. And be sure to buy the correct size stockings. If they fit right, they should be snug but comfortable. Medical experts don’t agree on the usefulness of compression stockings to treat symptoms or prevent deep vein thrombosis. But these stockings are sometimes recommended to help relieve swelling and pain. Compression stockings are also used to reduce the risk of deep leg vein thrombosis in people who are at high risk.
- Vishal Patel, MD, Director