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Not All Compression Socks are The Same

By Dr. Samuel P. Martin

Patients at Vascular Vein Centers are strongly encouraged to wear medical grade graduated compression stockings before and after treatment; they are the gold standard for management of symptoms and the physical signs venous of disease.

Patients at Vascular Vein Centers are strongly encouraged to wear medical grade graduated compression stockings before and after treatment; they are the gold standard for management of symptoms and the physical signs venous of disease. Symptoms of venous disease include: pressure, full or heavy sensations and even aching as the day goes on, and later, dryness and itching in the lower leg. The signs of venous disease include spider veins, varicose veins, leg swelling, leg skin changes with thickness, browning and scaling which can progress to lower leg ulcers because the skin becomes brittle.

The providers at Vascular Vein Centers strongly advise the use of graduated medical grade compression stockings because the compression is greatest at the ankle and progressively decreases going up the leg.  This helps support the superficial veins which lie outside the muscle tissue and return blood to the deep veins and then the heart and lungs.

One has to be careful when selecting compression. There are many brands and styles that claim to be “graduated compression” or “compression” socks. Even if a product says graduated compression it doesn’t mean that it is graduated unless it specifically has a compression class indicated such as 20-30 mmHg. Some of these products when tested actually have reverse compression.  

Compression should be held to a standard and graduated to optimally assist the calf muscle or “calf pump” perform. It works optimally when the compression is greatest at the ankle, 70% at the calf and, if the stocking goes to the thigh, 40% at the thigh.

Avoid a stocking that says only “Compression”. There is no way to know how much compression you are getting, if it optimally fits and if the stocking is truly facilitating venous outflow. “Compression” is a term used generally by many companies though their socks have no proven benefit. Unfortunately, there are no enforced standards with compression and like unregulated holistic medicines, there is a wide range in quality of stockings which are labeled as compression.

When shopping for medical grade compression there are several considerations. One should be fitted, or measurements should be taken, early in the day because the leg is its best size. Later in the day, the leg may have swollen and the stocking would potentially be too large.

Stockings are categorized by their degree of compression- 15-20mmHg is the lowest compression one should wear. Most people, especially women after pregnancy and those whose jobs entail significant standing, need 20-30 mmHg. If one has significant skin changes and/or swelling, they may need 30-40 mmHg or Velcro compression wraps. There are now assist devices for those having problems getting the stockings on and off. Ace bandages are never an acceptable alternative. They do not give adequate compression and are vulnerable to loosening. Ideally the stocking should be fitted by a certified fitter, someone who has been taught and certified in sizing the leg.

Vascular Vein Centers Doc’s Sock Store distributes ISO (International Organization of Standardization) certified, medical grade graduated compression stockings in all 7 of our Central Florida locations. ISO certification refers to an international quality control standard indicating the highest-level evaluation for medical equipment thus assuring the highest quality products. Our compression stockings are meant to prevent and treat venous and lymphatic diseases.

To help patients, and the general public who can be seen without an appointment, each staff member at Vascular Vein Centers is certified in fitting compression stockings. We also have a 30-day return policy as a courtesy to our clientele to help insure finding the right stocking for you. Whether you are a patient or someone seeking to prevent a problem, we store your information and can have stockings sent to your home in the future.

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