Do compression stockings help to treat varicose veins?

Compression Hose.jpg

A varicose vein is a highly visible vein located just beneath the surface of the skin. Compression stockings may help to reduce the appearance and painful symptoms associated with varicose veins in some people.

Varicose veins occur when blood collects behind the small valves in a person's veins instead of flowing smoothly back to the heart. They are more common in the legs and feet, because blood returning to the heart has farther to travel.

Doctors often recommend compression stockings to improve circulation, stop varicose veins from getting worse, and reduce pain or discomfort.

Here, we look at evidence that supports the use of these stockings, as well as associated risks. We also discuss how to choose the right size and shape.

How do compression stockings work?

Compression stockings are traditionally used to improve circulation. According to the authors of Sclerotherapy: Treatment of Varicose and Telangiectatic Leg Veins, Roman soldiers often wrapped their legs in leather straps to improve circulation during long marches.

Modern compression stockings are more sophisticated and designed to provide consistent pressure in the legs, helping blood to flow back toward the heart. Stockings usually exert more pressure near the ankles and feet, providing an extra squeeze that promotes blood flow.

Studies suggest that compression stockings can improve some symptoms of varicose veins, but little evidence supports the idea that stockings alone will eliminate them. Different types of stockings exert different amounts of pressure.

Some recent research into varicose veins includes:

  • A 2018 study, which found that wearing compression stockings with pressures of 18 to 21 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for 1 week helped to reduce aches and pain associated with varicose veins, compared to normal stockings.

  • A 2017 study, which determined that wearing stockings of 22 mm Hg for 6 months helped to control leg swelling during pregnancy in people with varicose veins. However, the authors noted that an oral medication called pycnogenol was more effective than using stockings.

Which type of compression stocking should I use?

The right amount of pressure and the right kind of stocking depends on the number, type, and underlying cause of a person's varicose veins.

The three main kinds are:

  • Support pantyhose. These exert some pressure, but are the least tight option.

  • Compression socks and stockings. A range of pressures are available for purchase at many drugstores, pharmacies, and online stores. These provide more support than pantyhose.

  • Prescription compression stockings. These exert the greatest amount of pressure, and are fitted by a specialist to ensure that they are effective but not so tight that they affect a person's circulation.

Stockings are typically knee- or thigh-high. Knee-high stockings promote circulation in the lower leg and when exercising.

Varicose veins affect over 23 percent of adults. Learn more about the causes, symptoms, home remedies, and treatments for varicose veins here.

When should I wear compression stockings?

People tend to wear compression stockings during the day, because sitting upright and standing are more likely to cause circulation problems.

A person with varicose veins might try putting their feet up at night, to improve circulation. However, a doctor may recommend wearing stockings at night as well.

Source Credit: