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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.) Compression stockings are tightest at the foot. The tightness gradually gets less and less until you reach the top of the stocking (graduated compression).

Doctors often recommend that you wear the stockings during the day to help relieve symptoms. See a picture of how to put on compression stockingsClick here to see an illustration.. Not everyone with varicose veins needs compression stockings.

  • 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 stores or online.
  • 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. (Compression stockings are available as panty hose but are more expensive.) A pair usually needs to be replaced after 4 to 6 months of regular use.

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 all day.
  • 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.

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.)

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery
Last RevisedFebruary 1, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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