Veins are one of the main components that make up our hard working circulatory system. The veins are particularly susceptible to problems because they are below and far from the heart, and returning blood to the heart is an uphill job. Any physical condition that hinders the veins from performing their role in in the circulatory system (returning blood to the heart) is considered venous disease. Venous disease is very common in North America especially in the 50 and over age group. Recent estimates indicate that 1 out of 2 people will develop some form of Chronic Venous Disorder in their lifetime. Chronic Venous Disorder is a progressive disorder, and although it cannot be cured, it can be kept at bay and prompt action can prevent further health problems many which are life threatening.
Some of the risk factors that are associated with chronic vein disorder are:
- Prolonged sitting or standing
- Long distance travel
- Being over the age of 40.
The vast majority of our population will have one or more of these risk factors working against them. If you develop venous disease the dangers associated with it go far beyond the cosmetic look of your legs. You could also develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or traveler's embolism. A DVT is a blood clot that can develop if venous disorders are left untreated. About 25% of DVTs move away from the legs and travel through the blood stream into the lungs. This clot is then referred to as a pulmonary embolism and it can have life threatening consequences.
The main mode of non-evasive treatment for venous disease is through compression therapy by using compression socks. Compression socks work by applying a measured amount of compression to your leg. The highest amount of compression is applied at the ankle and is gradually reduced along the length of the stocking as it gets closer to the heart. This is termed graduated compression and it is clinically shown to promote the flow of blood out of your legs and back to your heart. The compression socks massage the legs and act as a pump to aid in restoring normal circulation. To be most effective the socks or stockings should be put on at the start of your day and be removed before you go to bed.
Categories of Compression Stockings
The first category in which compression socks can be purchased are an over the counter product and is 15-20mmhg compression. These are a low compression sock and are designed for people who sit or stand for prolonged periods, or for those who have tired or achy legs.
The second category of sock is a measured sock and for these you will need a prescription from your family doctor indicating the recommended pressure. This pressure will depend on the severity of the venous disease . Below is a guideline used by your physician to establish proper compression:
- 20-30mmhg - Mild varicose veins with minimal edema and post–sclerotherapy of small veins, DVT.
- 30-40mmhg - Moderate to severe varicosities to moderate swelling, primary venous ulcer.
- 40-50mmhg - Severe varicosities, severe edema , reversible Lymphedema, Recurrrant venous ulcers.
- 50-60mmhg - Unmanageable venous ulcers, severe Lymphedema, Severe Post Thrombotic Syndrome.
The third category of compression sock is custom measurement. There are times when a person with venous disease does not fit into sizing perimeters. It is crucial this happens so on certain occasions custom measurements are required.
Compression socks are made and designed with both men and women in mind and they range in various styles such as knee high, thigh high, or pantyhose. They can be purchased in a sock material , sheer ,ultra sheer and rubber material to promote comfort and effectiveness. Wearing your compression socks every day is crucial for effective therapy so making it a daily habit is very important.
There are some contraindications for wearing compression socks some of which are arterial insufficiency, uncontrolled congestive heart failure, and acute and weeping dermatitis. There may be more contraindications so please consult your physician if you are planning to use measured or custom compression therapy.
In the province of Ontario, the Ministry of Health's Assistive Devices Program (ADP) provides funding assistance to individuals who have a valid Ontario Health Card and meet the program's eligibility criteria.
Many insurance companies can provide coverage through Employer Benefit plans. Check with your provider for full details.