One of the easiest and most cost effective ways of treating venous insufficiency (varicose veins) is through the use of compression stockings (varicose vein socks). In fact, compression therapy is one of the mainstays in treating venous insufficiency in all of its forms.
Compression stockings work by compressing the superficial veins which are closer to the surface of the legs. This helps to push more blood into the deep venous system, ultimately decreasing venous pressures in the leg and decreasing leg swelling.
Varicose vein socks may mean no vein surgery
For some patients, symptoms of venous insufficiency go away completely with compression stockings (sometimes called varicose vein socks). This is the first line of conservative therapy to treat venous insufficiency and if it relieves the symptoms, no surgical procedures are needed. Even when medical procedures like varicose vein removal surgery or radiofrequency ablation are performed to eliminate varicose veins, compression therapy is still almost always used prior to the procedure as well as a few weeks afterwards.
How to use compression stockings
To fit correctly, measurements of the calf and ankle must be taken so the correct size of compression stockings is ordered. Note that the amount of compression needed to improve venous insufficiency symptoms is usually higher than what's available in the drug stores and requires a prescription. Certified stocking fitters at medical supply stores will also provide aids to help you properly and more easily don the stockings as well as give you instructions for use and care of compression stockings. Usually stockings should be worn during the day and removed at night. Most patients find that compression therapy makes their legs feel much better!
- When to wear compression stockings: Wear the varicose vein socks during the day. Put them on in the morning and take them off before bed. Compression stockings do not need to be worn at night. If only one leg hurts or is affected, then you only need to wear the compression stocking on that leg.
- What strength to get: Generally, compression stockings are prescribed in two strengths.
- The weaker strength, 20-30 mmHg, is usually for people with mild spider veins or varicose veins.This strength is also used for people who have difficulty putting on the compression stockings.
- The tighter compression stockings, 30-40 mmHg, is the optimal strength for most people with documented venous insufficiency, especially if they have skin changes or ulcers.
- What length: Even if you have varicose veins as high as your thigh, knee high stockings will help a lot more than you may think. Most people are more comfortable wearing knee high compression stockings than thigh high. However, the most important thing is that you wear the stockings regularly.
- How to apply stockings: Many medical supply stores supply rubber gloves, which help you put on the stockings. There are also other application devices which help making donning the varicose vein socks easier. Without these aids, putting on stockings can be quite time consuming. Ask the store about this and request a demonstration about how to put on stockings. Making it easier to put the stockings on will increase your chance of wearing them regularly.
- Cost: Compression stockings can range from $65 to $120 for a pair from a medical store or medical supplier. The compression stocking brands, Medi and Jobst, are best in the industry, but most other brands are fine as well.
Where to buy varicose vein socks
Here are some medical supply stores if you live in the Bay Area near San Francisco or San Mateo and some online sites if you live outside the Bay Area.
Sincere Care Medical Supply
728 Pacific Ave # 116
San Francisco, CA 94133
(Mandarin and Cantonese spoken)
M&M Medical Supplies, Inc.
11 St. Francis Square
Daly City, CA 94015
Bay City Medical Supply
1465-A Chapin Ave
San Francisco, CA 94010
San Mateo Medical Market
53 43rd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94403