The Ups And Downs Of Compression Stockings

Compression stockings or socks have become a go-to treatment for several conditions that require assistance with lower-leg circulation. But there are a lot of compression stockings available, and choosing your first pair can be confusing because the terminology isn't that well-defined on retail sites and in stores. Finding the right pair of stockings for your situation isn't that hard if you know what to look for.

Know Your Type

First, know the specific type you need. Some stockings are meant to treat edema, while others are meant to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Others are meant to treat exhaustion in those who have to stand up or walk a lot. Many are designed for use as actual stockings or socks that you wear daily, while some, particularly anti-embolism socks, are meant for patients who are not walking around.

You'll also encounter a type of sock called diabetic socks. These are not compression socks; in fact, they're kind of the opposite. They're soft, nonbinding socks that do not grip feet, ankles, or calves tightly in order to prevent ulcer formation. If you need compression socks or stockings, do not get diabetic socks unless your doctor has suggested switching between both.

One feature of diabetic socks that you want to look for in compression stockings, though, is a lack of cutting-in pressure. Look for tops that don't leave a ridge mark on your skin, and that don't force your toes into cramped positions. You can find some brands of compression stockings that have open toes if you need to be especially careful with those digits.

Pressure Gradients

Compression stockings and socks are labeled with pressure gradients that signal how tight the stocking will be. Light or low compression is available at grades lower than 15 mm Hg, with tighter grades above 20 mm Hg, up to 30 mm Hg and beyond. The more severe the condition, the more likely it is you'll need a tighter gradient, though this is something you need to discuss with your doctor first. All of the grades are used in conditions such as varicose veins, so it's vital that you get a specific pressure gradient from your doctor. You don't want to get compression that is much too tight or much too loose, as those can make the condition very uncomfortable.

Yes, They Are Supposed to Be That Tough to Put On

And finally, compression stockings are supposed to be tight -- that's how they compress your legs -- which means that they can be tough to put on. They tend to be the worst around the ankle, though you may find you have to wrestle with the whole stocking, all the way up the calf. There are tools that are available commercially to help put these stockings on if you find that doing it by hand is too tough.

Talk to the doctor who is handling your specific condition. He or she will tell you what to look for as you search for compression stockings. You can also contact companies like Varicure Vein Center for more information.