Compression stockings, also called support stockings, are used to treat chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and lymphedema, but also to prevent heavy legs and swelling. They can also help recovery from sports activities such as running.

Chronic venous insufficiency: definition

Chronic venous insufficiency is characterized by poor blood circulation in the veins of the lower limbs. It causes a sensation of heavy legs, varicose veins, itching and swelling especially in the ankles. If left untreated, CVI can lead to edema, skin discoloration or leg ulcers.

In the most severe cases, chronic venous insufficiency can lead to phlebitis or thrombosis (blood clot formation in the veins).

A healthy vein has valves that help return blood to the heart. When a patient has CVI, the valves are defective and blood backs up and collects in the veins causing heavy legs and swelling.

Compression stockings, along with a healthy, active lifestyle, are the key to treating CVI, both in prevention and when the disease is diagnosed.

Who can get CVI?

In Canada, chronic venous insufficiency affects a large portion of the population. It is most common in women over 40 and men over 70. Risk factors include :

  • Family history (heredity)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Heart problems
  • Age
  • Pregnancy

Treatment of venous disease

Physical activity is one of the easiest ways to treat CVI. By activating the calf muscle pump, for example by walking or running, it helps to improve venous return of blood to the heart. But whether it is for prevention or to help venous return in case of venous insufficiency, compression stockings are a great help to better leg health.

Compression stockings provide graduated compression from the ankles up the leg, drawing blood back to the heart. There are different models of compression stockings for both men and women

  • Knee-high stockings
  • Thigh-high stockings
  • Pantyhose

The affected area, the severity of the venous insufficiency and the comfort dictate the style of compression stockings to adopt. For example, if you have swelling and varicose veins only in the ankles or calf, knee-high stockings are sufficient. But if you have CVI throughout your leg, thigh-high stockings or pantyhose are recommended. Comfort and lifestyle also play an important role in the choice of compression stockings.

How to choose compression stockings

It is important to discuss with your orthotist or fitter which style of stocking is best for you.

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No compromise on the look

Forget the beige stockings of your grandmothers, today’s compression stockings are available in many textures, colors or patterns. Opaque, translucent, patterned, black or even pink, you don’t have to compromise on the look. You can wear your compression stockings to work or to a fancy party without compromising the health of your legs, but especially your comfort.

Compression level

There are different levels of compression depending on the severity of the chronic venous disease. Compression in stockings is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and represents the compression achieved at the ankle, gradually decreasing towards the top of the leg.

15-20 mm Hg*

  • Prevention: sports and physical activity, air travel, standing work
  • Mild varicose veins without swelling
  • Heavy legs and fatigue
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevention of thrombosis in bedridden patients

*A doctor’s prescription is not required for this level of compression and the stockings can be purchased over the counter.

20-30mm Hg

  • Chronic venous disease
  • Varicose veins with severe swelling
  • Healed venous ulcer
  • Prevention and treatment of Post-Thrombotic Symptom (PTS)
  • Post-traumatic edema (infiltration of tissue by serous fluid)

30-40 mm Hg

  • Lymphoedema
  • Severe post-traumatic edema
  • Unhealed or non-healing venous ulcer

For compression levels of 20-30 mm Hg and 30-40 mm Hg, a physician’s prescription is required and costs are reimbursed by some insurance companies.

Also for prevention and recovery

Compression stockings also help in the recovery from long term physical activity such as running. The compression of the stockings will help the blood circulation during the activity, and keep it active after the effort for a reduction of the aches and a better recovery.

For air travel, compression stockings also help prevent blood clots by keeping the calf muscle pump active. It is also important to activate the legs and get up to walk during long hours of flight.

Standing workers such as waitresses, hairdressers, nurses or construction workers can also benefit from the advantages of compression stockings by avoiding swelling and fatigue of the legs and the appearance of varicose veins.

What about lymphedema?

Lymphedema is another condition that can be treated with compression garments. It is a swelling of the limbs, mainly the arms and legs, caused by a disorder of the lymphatic system. Because the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, lymphatic fluid accumulates in the limbs causing extreme swelling in some cases.

Lymphedema can be primary, so it is present at birth. It can also appear following a trauma, cancer or bacteria, in which case it is called secondary lymphedema.  For example, an arm can be affected by lymphedema following breast cancer. In all cases, custom-made compression garments are the best way to prevent or reduce swelling. A compression bandage and lymphatic drainage treatment will also help control swelling in the limbs.

Compression garments for lymphedema must be custom-made according to the precise measurements of the affected limb. A stocking, pantyhose, capri or even a sleeve will be made following the measurement by the orthotist or fitter.

CEO Médic is accredited by the RAMQ as a supplier in connection with the coverage program for compression garments for lymphedema.

See here for more details

Find everything in one place

Whether it’s to prevent leg fatigue or swelling, to treat chronic venous disease or lymphedema, you’ll find the compression stockings to meet your needs at CEO Médic.

Do you have any questions?

Our qualified staff will help you make the right choice to maintain the health of your legs in comfort and style.

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