Compression Gear for Varicose Veins
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are superficial veins that have become enlarged and twisted.
While they can arise anywhere in the body, they typically occur in the legs, which take on the most pressure when we walk or stand. The muscles of the lower legs act as pumps to help move blood through the veins and back to the heart.
Tiny valves in the veins open to allow blood to flow upwards towards the heart and then close to prevent it from flowing backward. Weak or damaged valves can allow blood to pool in the veins and cause them to stretch and twist. The result is varicose veins.
The Role of Compression in Varicose Vein Treatment
While there are treatments, mentioned below, that are extremely effective in eliminating varicose veins, many people with mild to moderate cases prefer to manage their symptoms in less invasive, more affordable ways. The most common non-invasive treatment for varicose veins is compression.
Compression clothing has been used in the medical community for over 60 years to promote improved blood circulation. Compression socks work by creating graduated compression that begins at the point furthest from the heart and aids in pushing blood toward the center of the body. Because the root cause of varicose veins is an issue of blood circulation, compression stockings or socks are often the first line of defense in relieving painful symptoms and slowing or preventing progression of the condition.
While compression socks will not cure varicose veins, they are an excellent option for those with mild to moderate symptoms who are seeking a low cost, non-invasive treatment plan either before or in lieu of other treatment options.
Compression socks are also often used following treatment to promote healing and prevent complications or recurrence of varicose veins. The amount of compression in each item is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). There are four main levels:
- Mild compression: 8-15 mmHg
- Medium compression: 15-20 mmHg
- Firm compression: 20-30 mmHg
- Extra Firm Compression: 30-40 mmHg
How to Choose the Best Compression Wear
For the treatment of varicose veins, doctors will typically recommend a compression level between medium and extra firm based on severity.
While firm compression is most commonly recommended, doctors will look at each case individually to determine which level is best suited to the patient’s situation. For the most extreme cases, compression levels above 40 mmHg are available by prescription only.
While it is always recommended that you consult a doctor before treating varicose veins at home, most levels of compression socks and stockings are available for purchase without a doctor’s prescription.
If you have a job that requires long hours of standing or sitting and hope to prevent varicose veins before they start, or if you have a mild case you’d like to keep under control, finding the right pair of compression socks or stockings can make all the difference. There is an enormous range of options when it comes to compression socks and stockings, so selecting the right pair can be overwhelming. To find the product that’s right for you, you’ll need to consider several factors:
- Style: Compression socks typically come in knee high and thigh high varieties. The style you choose should be based on where you are experiencing symptoms. If your varicose veins are limited to your lower legs, knee high socks will be sufficient. If, however, they extend above the knee, thigh high stockings or full tights are the more effective choice.
- Compression level: The level of compression you need will depend on the severity of your varicose veins. This is best determined by your doctor.
- Size: Choosing the correct size for your compression socks can be tricky. For low levels of compression, you can often purchase based on your shoe size and height. Finding the right fit for higher levels will require accurate measurements of your ankle, calf, and thigh. Be sure to check each company’s sizing guide before purchasing.
Best Overall: Jobst Relief Thigh High Compression Stocking (20-30 mmHg)
These three aspects make the LemonHero Zippered Compression Socks the right choice for individuals who want something more than the standard compression sock along with increased comfort and wear: they’re easier to put on than other compression socks, superior breathable design & air circulation, and they’re ideal for combating soreness & pain.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are a very common condition, with more than 3 million new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. In all cases, varicose veins are caused by weakened valves in our veins.
While anyone can get varicose veins, there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing them. These include:
- Age: Because veins tend to experience wear and tear over time, the risk of developing varicose veins increases with age.
- Sex: Women are more likely to develop varicose veins. Hormonal changes throughout their lives can result in the relaxing of vein walls. Menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and even the use of birth control pills all increase a woman’s chances of developing varicose veins.
- Pregnancy: In addition to hormonal changes, a woman’s blood volume increases significantly during pregnancy. This puts additional pressure on the veins that can lead to varicose veins.
- Family History: People with a family history of varicose veins are more likely to develop them at some point.
- Obesity: Carrying additional weight puts pressure on the veins that can increase the chances of developing varicose veins.
- Long periods of standing or sitting: People with sedentary lifestyles or those who must stand or sit for long periods of time are at an increased risk of developing varicose veins.
How are Varicose Veins Treated?
In many cases, varicose veins are merely a cosmetic issue, but for some, they can cause chronic pain and even lead to more serious complications like ulcers, bleeding, and blood clots. While many people choose to live with varicose veins, some seek treatment for both cosmetic and quality of life purposes. A number of options exist for those looking to manage, treat, or cure their varicose veins.
Conservative treatments like lifestyle changes and compression socks or tights can manage pain and prevent varicose veins for progressing. However, the only way to cure this condition is through more invasive treatment. The two main methods of curing varicose veins are closing the veins and removing the veins.
Closing varicose veins:
- Sclerotherapy: This involves injections of a solution or foam into varicose veins. The injection causes the veins to scar, close, and eventually fade. This procedure can be done in your doctor’s office without anesthesia. While sclerotherapy is typically used for small to medium-sized veins, it has also been used to successfully treat large varicose veins.
- Laser treatment: This is a great option for those looking to avoid injections or incisions. During this treatment, doctors send strong bursts of light into the vein causing it to slowly fade and disappear.
- Endovenous ablation: During this procedure, a doctor inserts a catheter into the varicose vein and heats it using radiofrequency or laser energy. The catheter is then pulled out, allowing the heat to collapse and seal the vein.
- Endoscopic vein surgery: In the most extreme cases, often when other treatments have failed or ulcers have developed, endoscopic vein surgery may be recommended. During this procedure, performed under general anesthesia, a doctor threads a small camera on a tube into your vein through an incision in your skin. A device connected to the tube is used to close the vein.
Removing varicose veins:
- High ligation and vein stripping: Vein stripping is an outpatient surgical procedure performed under either general or spinal anesthesia. During the procedure a doctor will use small incisions to tie off and completely remove varicose veins. This method is often recommended for otherwise healthy people with large varicose veins.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy: This procedure also removes varicose veins from the leg, but can be done in the doctor’s office under local anesthetic. It involves small incisions to remove bulging varicose veins that are close to the surface.
What is Compression Gear?
At the most basic level, compression gear is a category of clothing and other accessories designed to fit tightly around the skin.
Compression gear has a wide variety of applications including, medical, fitness, and personal uses such as fashion and travel, and continues to grow in popularity as athletes, doctors, patients, and regular people find more creative ways to benefit from these products.
Read our What is Compression Gear? article to get a bigger picture of the role compression gear plays in Fitness, Health, Travel, Fashion, how compression works, and what its benefits are.