Over 80 million Americans suffer from vein disease in any given year. From spider veins and large varicose veins to venous leg ulcers, diseased veins are one of the most common, and commonly overlooked, medical conditions in the country. At Pacific Vein Care in McHenry, IL, we’d like you to know that you’re not alone in your visible varicose veins. But you shouldn’t overlook treatment. Today, we’re answering our most frequently asked questions about compression therapy, including how long it takes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Compression Therapy
1. What Is Compression Therapy?
Compression therapy, or CT, is a safe, effective means to help keep your veins healthy. Depending on your unique situation, this therapy may involve only compression garments, such as compression socks, stockings, pantyhose or sleeves.
2. What Is It Used to Treat?
CT is a non-invasive treatment used to reduce the symptoms associated with diseased veins, such as varicose veins and spider veins. The controlled, external pressure enhances the efficiency of both the venous systems and lymphatic systems.
It is most effective when the compression is strongest at the extremity. Thus, in compression socks, stockings or pantyhose, the compression garment is tightest at the ankle. In the case of compression gloves, you will feel the most pressure at the fingertips. Compression sleeves are tightest at the wrist.
3. How Long Does It Take?
To get the best results out of compression therapy, use as needed. People who work sedentary jobs may wear their compression garments all day long, taking them off only for bed. People with active jobs may only need to wear compression garments for a few hours per day.
If you struggle with blood pooling while you sleep, give your skin a break from the compression garments by elevating your legs above your heart while you sleep. This will improve your circulation while allowing your skin to breathe.
4. How Long Until I See Results?
The discomfort relief from your condition is immediate. However, it may take several days of regular use to enjoy a noticeable reduction in swelling. For best results, put on your compression garment first thing in the morning. This is when your limbs are the least swollen. Visible improvement in the appearance of your veins can take up to six weeks to see.
5. Are There More Effective Treatment Options?
Compression garments are ideal for diseased veins caused by pregnancy and other temporary factors. However, if your spider veins are not caused by temporary weight gain, you may need a more “aggressive” treatment. Sclerotherapy or laser treatments may be a better option for you.
6. What Does It Feel Like?
Your compression garment will feel tight, but not painfully tight. In fact, the garment gets to work immediately assisting in your circulation. Thus, you begin to feel relief right away.
7. What Can I Expect From Compression Socks?
Compression socks come in a variety of fabrics and lengths. Depending on the location of your diseased veins, you may need compression socks that go up to your knee or thigh. When you come in for your initial consultation, we will help you determine which height is right for you as well as how much pressure you need from your compression garments.
8. How Much Pressure Should My Compression Garments Have?
The right amount of pressure exerted by your compression garments depends on the severity of your unique case. If you haven’t been diagnosed with a venous disease but feel leg fatigue after spending all day on your feet, mild pressure may be right for you. Mild pressure describes anything fewer than 15 mmHg.
Moderate pressure, or anything exerting 15 to 20 mmHg, is ideal for individuals who experience minor leg swelling and are concerned about developing deep vein thrombosis while flying.
If you have been diagnosed with varicose veins, experience extreme edema, or you are on bed rest, you will need a high-pressure compression garment. High pressure refers to compression garments exerting between 20 mmHg to over 40 mmHg. This type of compression garment is considered medical-grade and can only be purchased with a prescription. Since these compression garments are used to treat diagnosed medical conditions rather than self-diagnosed fatigue, your health insurance provider should cover the cost of these garments.
9. Why Can’t I Get My Compression Stockings On?
Because compression garments must be tight to work, many people struggle to put them on. This is particularly challenging when you’re wearing compression pantyhose, as they are thin and difficult to grasp. To make putting on compression garments easier, apply a bit of cornstarch powder to your legs before putting them on. Alternatively, you could wear rubber gloves to improve your grip or use a stocking donner.
10. How Does CT Work?
CT works by returning excess fluid (edema) to circulation. The compression increases pressure on the capillaries and spaces between your tissues. This minimizes excess fluid leakage from the capillaries while simultaneously increasing the amount of fluid your capillaries and lymphatic vessels can absorb.
Moreover, the presence of the garment keeps the diameter of your underlying superficial veins in check. By controlling the diameter of these veins, the veins cannot over-expand full of blood. This prevents blood from “pooling” at your wrists or ankles. It also helps venous blood flow faster up your leg towards your heart.
11. Who Can Benefit From Compression Therapy?
Compression garments can help anyone who suffers from any of the following:
- Aching, tired legs
- Dermatitis of the legs or arms
- Mild or intense venous insufficiency
- Pain or swelling
- Extreme edema
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Spider veins
- Leg ulcers
- Skin discoloration
12. How Should I Care for My Compression Garments?
We recommend hand-washing your compression garments daily. This is gentler on the garment and will help it last longer. Similarly, air-drying your compression garment at night will help to extend its useful life.
If you machine-wash your compression garments, use a mesh laundry bag to protect the gentle fabric from rough items in your laundry, such as buttons and zippers. If you apply lotion as part of your daily skin care routine, put it on at night when you won’t be wearing your compression garment. This will protect the delicate fibers from premature wear.
Moreover, avoid harsh chemicals during the washing and drying process. Only use mild detergents and soaps. If you machine-dry your compression garments, use very low heat or no heat at all to extend the useful life of the compression garments.
13. When Should I Replace My Compression Garments?
As a general rule of thumb, replace your compression garments every three to six months. However, this doesn’t apply to every case. You should replace your compression garment when:
- It becomes easy to put on
- The fibers are worn or thin
- There are large holes in it
- It has lost its shape
- It does not compress your body effectively
14. How Does CT Benefit Blood Flow?
There are several benefits of CT on blood flow. Primarily, this treatment increases your circulation. Secondarily, it decreases blood pooling and pathologically elevated venous (blood) pressure. Finally, it minimizes reflux in diseased deep and superficial veins.
15. How Does CT Benefit Tissue?
The primary benefit CT has on tissue is a drastic reduction is edema, or swelling. Moreover, it helps your lymphatic system drain toxic substances like lactic acid. An excess buildup of lactic acid is responsible for the flu-like aching you feel in your muscles the day after a strenuous workout. CT also decreases inflammation, helps your body heal itself, and enhances the range of motion in your joints and tendons.
16. Should I Use Compression Garments While I’m Pregnant?
During pregnancy, changes in hormone levels result in the walls of your veins relaxing or dilating. This venous relaxation often occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. Your total blood volume increases throughout your entire pregnancy. This increase can equal up to 45% more volume than when you weren’t pregnant. Backward venous blood flow occurs when venous valves become incompetent due to your vein walls relaxing.
You should use compression garments throughout your pregnancy to prevent ankle swelling and leg discomfort caused by venous congestion. These garments will support your superficial leg veins, manage the drastically increased blood volume and enhance the appearance and comfort of your legs.
17. How Can I Keep My Legs Healthy?
The first step in keeping your legs healthy is losing excess weight. Excess weight puts unnecessary pressure on your veins, making it harder for them to pump blood back up to your heart. You must also avoid crossing your legs and wearing tight-fitting clothes or high-heeled shoes. Don’t sit or stand for too long.
If you have to sit for an extended time, set a 60-minute timer. When it goes off, use your toes to draw letters of the alphabet. Finally, elevate your feet above your heart whenever you have the opportunity. If you lie flat on your back, a couple pillows under your ankles should accomplish this.
18. Is Long-Distance Travel Dangerous?
Whether you’re flying, taking a train or stuck on a cross-country bus, long-distance travel can lead to swelling, discomfort, feelings of heaviness in the legs and more. Particularly if there’s not a lot of room in your seat, it’s difficult for venous blood to travel from your legs back to your heart.
Long-distance travel may result in travel-related venous thrombosis (blood clot in your vein). This may present itself as either deep vein thrombosis or a fragment that could flow into the lungs and lodge, resulting in a pulmonary embolism. Here are some risk factors of developing travel-related venous thrombosis:
- Confined seating for over five hours
- Age over 40
- Severe varicose veins
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Previous DVT
- Recent surgery
- Family history of DVT
- Hormonal medication
- Heart failure
19. How Can I Make Long-Distance Travel Safer?
Besides wearing gradient compression garments, there are a few things you may be able to do to mitigate your risk of venous thrombosis. First, don’t wear high-heeled shoes and avoid restrictive clothing.
Elevate your legs whenever you can and perform regular ankle movements. Stretch and exercise your legs at least hourly and drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. Water is ideal. However, de-caffeinated tea or coffee will keep you hydrated, as well. If you are traveling by car, get out and walk around every time the driver stops for fuel or a rest stop.
Stand Up for Healthy Leg Veins Today
Contact Pacific Vein Care in McHenry, IL today so we can help you be self-confident and healthy. We will help you find the best treatment method for your veins to improve your looks and mitigate your risk of more serious medical conditions.