When planning a long trip either by car, train, air packing a pair or two of compression stockings. The benefit of compression stockings is such that circulation (blood and lymphatic) in the lower legs has improved which in turn helps to decrease the risk of leg swelling and blood clots in the legs. Lower extremity elevation may be difficult in smaller, more confined spaces and so, compression stockings promote blood flow back to the heart and prevent the blood from refluxing downward.
Compression stockings apply pressure to the lower legs which then in turn reduce the swelling in the legs as well as reducing the diameter of major veins, promoting blood flow upwards towards the heart at a faster velocity. Compression stockings prevent stagnant accumulation of venous and lymphatic drainage in the legs and ankles.
Though the risk of blood clot development in the general population is low, investing in compression stockings is imperative in both the short-term and long-term. Lower extremity edema (i.e. swelling) may have serious dermatologic consequences.
Why consider compression stockings?
[Textural changes & appearance] Patients with uncontrolled lower extremity swelling may develop increased dryness, atrophy (skin thinning) and hair loss on the lower legs in addition to textural changes of the legs. Initially, the leg may feel smooth and appear shiny; however, if the swelling remains untreated marked thickening, “wood-like” feel, disfiguration of the contour of the legs (“inverted champagne bottle”) and at times, may result in reduced sensation to soft touch.
[Wound healing] Those with poor blood flow in the legs may also experience delayed wound healing, which may in turn be a nidus for infection (fungal, bacterial) as well as a source of poorly-controlled pain. Wound care is often consulted for these patients as properly caring for the wound can be a daunting task for the patient and their families.
[Rashes] One of the more commonly encountered skin concerns in patients with impaired lower extremity circulation is a rash called stasis dermatitis. Stasis dermatitis is an inflammatory disease that during its acute stage can be very itchy and painful and requires evaluation by a dermatologist for continued management.
With many family members suffering from varicose veins, frequently traveling and caring for those suffering from chronic venous insufficiency and impaired wound healing on the legs wearing and promoting compression stocking use is a no-brainer. According to many of my patients, the of the largest hurdles in the compliance and purchase of compression stockings is the overall appearance—some describe them as “tacky”, “monotonous colors” and “outdated”.
Compression stocking manufacturers have creatively designed their products to be increasingly fashionably appealing. Conrad, Figs, Amazon and Vim & Vigr are such companies that have advertised and manufactured fashionable compression socks that are relevant and read for every day wear for all ages.
Those with a known history of lower extremity swelling, risk factors for leg swelling (i.e. heart disease, chronic venous insufficiency, liver and kidney disease) and those with risk factors for developing blood clots (obesity, pregnancy, smokers, oral contraceptive use, history of cancer, leg trauma and/or surgery, diabetes, genetic predisposition for clotting, among others).