Compression stockings are specialized hosiery designed to help prevent the occurrence of, and guard against, further progression of venous disorders such as edema, phlebitis and thrombosis.
Compression stockings are elastic garments worn around the leg, compressing the limb. This reduces the diameter of distended veins and causes an increase in venous blood flow velocity and valve effectiveness. Compression therapy helps decrease venous pressure, prevents venous stasis and impairments of venous walls, and relieves heavy and aching legs. Knee High Compression Hose are used not only to help increase circulation, but to also help prevent the formation of blood clots in the lower legs, as well as aiding in the treatment of ulcers of the lower legs.
Unlike traditional dress or athletic stockings and socks, compression stockings use stronger elastics to create significant pressure on the legs, ankles and feet. Compression stockings are tightest at the ankles and gradually become less constrictive towards the knees and thighs. By compressing the surface veins, arteries and muscles, the circulating blood is forced through narrower circulatory channels. As a result, the arterial pressure is increased, which causes more blood to return to the heart and less blood to pool in the feet.
There are two types of compression stockings, gradient and anti-embolism.
Gradient compression stockings
Gradient compression stockings are designed to remedy impaired “musculovenous pump” performance caused by incompetent leg vein valves. They are woven in such a way that the compression level is highest around the ankle and lessens towards the top of the hose. Doctors will typically recommend these stockings for those who are prone to blood clots, lower limb edema, and blood pooling in the legs and feet from prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity. They are also frequently used to address complications caused by diabetes, lymphedema, thrombosis, cellulitis, and other conditions.
These stockings are worn by those who are ambulatory in most cases, where they assist the calf muscles to perform their pumping action more efficiently to return blood to the heart. In some cases, they are worn by those at increased risk of circulatory problems, such as diabetics, whose legs are prone to excessive swelling. A common indicator for the prescription of such stockings is chronic peripheral venous insufficiency, caused by incompetent perforator veins.
It is crucial that compression stockings are properly sized. The compression should gradually reduce from the highest compression at the smallest part of the ankle, until a 70% reduction of pressure just below the knee. Vascular doctors & nurses may use special pads to ensure uniform higher pressure around the circumference of the ankle (to smooth out the irregular cross-sectional profile.) “Firm” gradient stockings (20-30 mmHg and 30-40 mmHg) should generally be worn only on medical advice.
Anti-Embolism Compression Stockings
These stockings are commonly referred to as TED hose, short for thromboembolism-deterrent hose. They are used to support the venous and lymphatic drainage of the leg.
Like gradient compression stockings, anti-embolism stockings deliver a distributed amount of compression at the ankle and up the leg. This compression, when combined with the muscle pump effect of the calf, aids in circulating blood and lymph fluid through the legs (in non-ambulatory patients).
Compression wear has also been adopted by the sports science industry. Various garments have been developed to improve the efficiency of muscles by stabilizing muscles and improving circulation/ lactic acid removal. Today, compression stockings are available in a wide range of opacities, colors, styles and sizes, making them virtually indistinguishable from regular hosiery or socks.
Treatment is usually prescribed by a physician to relieve all manifestations of chronic venous disease and prevent venous troubles.
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