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Compression Stockings

Basic Facts

  • Compression stockings are a simple noninvasive treatment for varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency, and lymphedema.
  • The treatment compresses superficial veins to promote the flow of blood through the leg veins and prevent the accumulation of fluid (edema) in the tissues of the legs.
  • To be effective, compression stockings must be worn regularly.
Compression stockings, which are made from an elastic fabric, fit most tightly around the ankles and gradually become looser farther up the leg. The treatment compresses superficial veins to promote the flow of blood through the leg veins and prevent the accumulation of fluid (edema) in the tissues of the legs.

Compression stockings are commonly used to treat or prevent:
  • Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI);
  • Varicose veins;
  • Lymphedema; and
  • Deep vein thrombosis.

Compression stockings are recommended or prescribed for moderate to severe CVI, following a procedure to treat varicose veins, or for lymphedema in the leg.

Although many compression stockings are sold without a prescription, they should not be used without medical advice.


Patients with CVI or lymphedema may require bed rest for 2 to 7 days to reduce edema as much as possible. If the patient has infected leg ulcers, antibiotics may be prescribed. Ulcers (sores) are cleaned and dressed daily as needed.

When swelling has decreased and any ulcers have healed, the patient is fitted with compression stockings.


Patients with impaired arterial circulation in the legs should not use compression stockings.


Many patients have difficulty adjusting to compression stockings. They require daily use to be fully effective, yet they may initially cause great discomfort when they press against existing or recently healed ulcers. However, most patients can tolerate compression stockings by wearing the stockings briefly at first and gradually increasing the duration of wear.


Patients are told they will need to wear the stockings at all times during the day and are therefore usually given two pairs of compression stockings to be able to wash them. The patient should put on the stockings in the morning before getting out of bed and wear them all day until bedtime.

Special devices can ease the process of putting on compression stockings.


Compression stockings generally have to be replaced every 3 to 6 months.

Patients with CVI or severe varicose veins should be prepared to use compression stockings for the rest of their lives.

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