Compression Stockings to Treat Varicose Veins - Topic Overview
Compression stockings help relieve symptoms and slow the progress 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 don't need treatment.) Doctors
often recommend that you wear the stockings during the day to help relieve
symptoms. See a picture of
how to put on compression stockings. Not everyone with varicose veins needs
- For very mild symptoms, you may want to start out
using regular support panty hose, 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 are available at most department
- You can also buy compression stockings from pharmacies or
department stores that are used to treat leg swelling. They are made of
lighter-weight elastic, and the pressure created is even all the way up the
leg. (It is best if pressure decreases as the stocking moves up your leg; this
is called graduated compression.) As a result, thigh-high stockings of this
type may not be a good choice. Without garters, they slip down and bunch up and
can worsen varicose vein problems.
- 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.)
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. These stockings are tighter at the feet and get looser
as they go up (graduated compression).
- Prescription compression stockings may cost between $60 and
$100 a pair. A pair usually needs to be replaced after 4 to 6 months of regular use. (Compression stockings are available as panty hose but are more
- If you have serious varicose vein symptoms and are
considering these, be sure not to buy stockings that are too tight and
uncomfortable, or you may not wear them.
Put your compression stockings on first thing in the morning before
getting out of bed. If you wait, your legs and feet may swell.
Compression stockings have disadvantages.
- They are hot and can be uncomfortable when worn
- They are expensive.
- They may be difficult for
older adults, overweight people, and those with arthritis to put on.
Consider the discomfort and inconvenience of compression stockings
compared with the chance that they may help keep your problem from getting
worse and may help you avoid surgery.