Ask the Community Pharmacy & Seniors Wellness Expert – Tammy Callaghan, BSP, Pharmacist
Compression Stocking Certified
Do you suffer from tired, swollen, achy legs or have you noticed those dreaded varicose veins creeping up on you? Well, graduated compression stockings may be the perfect prescription. Thousands of men and woman suffer from these common ailments but have found relief with compression stockings. Some people are more prone to swollen legs and ankles or various varicosities due to genetics, the nature of their job (for example, standing for prolonged periods of time) or a medical condition. However, this does not mean that there is no hope. On the contrary, compression stockings have provided clinical improvements in a short period of time with daily compliance. The following article will briefly discuss how these stockings work and its benefits, the populations at highest risk for venous disorders and contraindications to this therapy.
Our calf muscle, also known as the “second heart” is vital to maintaining healthy legs. When this muscle functions properly it returns blood back to the heart through the veins. When there is insufficiency, then one may develop the symptoms of heavy, aching legs which can lead to more serious leg problems ranging from incompetent valves, varicose veins, a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) to irreversible lymphedema if left untreated. This is where graduated compression stocking therapy can provide huge benefits. Compression in these stockings is 100% at the ankle and decreases as it moves up the leg. The reason for this is to help our “second heart” the calf muscle, function at its maximum capacity even if there has been damage done to the valves or veins in the legs. Stockings will help ensure that that blood flow can only flow one way through our valves to prevent further damage from occurring in our legs.
Which populations have an increased risk of developing a chronic venous disorder (varicose veins, DVT’s and skin ulcers)? These include but are not limited to, women and men over the age of 50, patients in the later stages of pregnancy, those who are immobilized for prolonged periods of times, smokers, anyone with a body mass index over 30, and patients with certain disease states such as cancer, cardiac insufficiency and immune system deficiencies. The goal of compression stocking therapy is to reduce swelling in the legs and ankles quickly, improve blood flow and prevent or treat any venous disorders that have developed.
Who can wear compression stockings? The majority of men and woman can be properly fitted with a pair of fashionable stockings that offer various levels of compression depending on the goal of therapy. The most common levels of compression are: 1) 15-20mmhg used for those who have tired, achy legs, sit or stand for long hours, or prophylaxis of a DVT during travel, 2) 20-30mmhg used in patients with mild swelling or mild varicosities in pregnancy and management of a DVT, 3) 30-40mmhg used for those with moderate swelling, treatment of a DVT or active ulcer, and lastly, 4) 40mmhg or higher used for people with severe varicosities or irreversible lymphedema. Caution must be exercised in patients with skin sensitivities, diabetic patients with severe neuropathy or arterial compromise and non-ambulatory patients. Contraindication for compression stocking therapy are those with uncontrolled congestive heart failure because we do not want to overload their already weakened heart with an increased blood volume as it would not be able to handle it.
Daily compliance and properly fitted stockings are crucial in preventing and treating various leg ailments. Cheetham’s pharmacy has a certified Sigvaris fitter who will ensure that your legs are measured and sized correctly to enhance your therapeutic results. Remember; do not to take your leg health for granted. Keep your legs looking and feeling their best with a pair of graduated compression stockings.