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What You Need to Know about Graduated Compression Socks

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Vein treatment patients should always wear medical grade graduated compression socks or stockings before and after treatment. - Dr. Samuel P. Martin, Vascular Vein Centers

Vein treatment patients should always wear medical grade graduated compression socks or stockings before and after treatment. They are the gold standard for management of symptoms and signs of venous disease. Symptoms of venous disease include: pressure, full or heavy sensations in the leg, dryness and itching in the lower leg, and aching as the day goes on. The signs include spider veins, varicose veins, leg swelling, leg skin changes, and even browning and scaling, which can progress to lower leg ulcers when the skin becomes brittle.

Compression is greatest at the ankle and progressively decreases going up the leg. The right compression socks help support the superficial veins, which lie outside the muscle tissue and return blood to the deep veins and then to the heart and lungs. 

Be careful when it comes to selecting compression stockings. 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.  

Compression should be graduated to optimally assist the calf muscle. It works optimally when the compression is greatest at the calf at 70 percent and goes to 40 percent at the thigh.

Avoid socks that are labeled 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. Unfortunately, there are no enforced standards with compression socks and stockings, therefore there is a wide range in quality.

When shopping for medical grade compression there are several considerations. 

Ideally the stocking should be fitted by a certified fitter, someone who has been taught and certified in sizing the leg. The socks or stockings should be fitted with measurements taken early in the day because the leg is at its best size. 

When shopping for certified, medical grade graduated compression stockings, look for an ISO certification. This refers to an international quality control standard indicating the highest-level evaluation for medical equipment thus assuring the highest quality products. These compression stockings are meant to prevent and treat venous and lymphatic diseases. Venous reflux from valve failure causes swollen and achy legs.
Stockings are categorized by degrees of compression: 15-20 mmHg 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 you has significant skin changes and/or swelling, you may need 30-40 mmHg or Velcro compression wraps. 

There are now assist devices for those having problems getting the stockings on and off. 
Whether you are a patient or someone seeking to prevent a problem, get your compression socks fitted properly and ensure that you are getting medical grade quality.

Dr. Samuel P. Martin is a board-certified vascular surgeon who practices at Vascular Vein Centers throughout Central Florida. Vascular Vein Centers – Lake Mary is located at MedPlex in Lake Mary.

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