If you are an elderly person or know someone who is, then you should learn about compression socks. These special stockings can help improve circulation and reduce pain and swelling in your feet and legs. Keep reading to find out how compression socks can improve your quality of life.

What are Compression Socks?

Compression socks are simply socks that gently apply pressure to your feet and legs. These stockings can exert force on your feet and lower legs because they are made from stretchy material, like spandex or lycra. Additionally, these socks are engineered to be much tighter around the ankles and gradually loosen the higher up the leg they go.

This gradual pressure helps to improve blood circulation, which can be helpful if you suffer from conditions like varicose veins, DVT (deep vein thrombosis), or fatigue and pain in the legs.

How do Compression Socks Work?

The most important feature of compression socks is the graduated compression levels. These levels are measured in mmHg or millimeters of mercury. The amount of pressure exerted by the socks on your legs is different at the ankle than it is at the calf, and this change in pressure is what enables the stockings to be effective.

The level of compression offered by a sock is important because it needs to be high enough to work but not so high that it’s uncomfortable to wear. Compression socks work because they help move de-oxygenated blood from your extremities back toward your heart to pick up more oxygen. 

How do they do this? By applying pressure to your veins and arteries, it forces the blood to flow more efficiently. The result of this clever design is that these support hose help reduce swelling, pain, and fatigue.

Why do Elderly People Wear Compression Socks?

The elderly wear compression socks for many reasons, including poor circulation, swelling in their legs, or being at risk for blood clots. Let’s break down the benefits of wearing this specialized footwear for the elderly.

  • Decreased swelling. Edema is the medical term for swelling, which occurs when fluid seeps out of veins and arteries and collects in the body’s tissues. This leakage can cause pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving. 

Luckily the pressure applied by the support hose helps not only to reduce the amount of fluid that leaks out of your blood vessels but also helps move fluid from your feet and legs back into your bloodstream.

  • Pain reduction. Poor circulation can cause aches and pains in the elderly, but support stockings can reduce pain and swelling in the legs and feet by providing gentle pressure that encourages blood flow.
  • Managed medical conditions. Compression stockings are also helpful for managing diabetes, arthritis, and other medical conditions that can cause pain or discomfort in the legs and feet.
  • Minimize leg disorders. These special socks are commonly used to relieve symptoms of leg disorders, such as varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and chronic venous insufficiency. 
  • Protection of feet and ankles. The elderly are more susceptible to developing foot and ankle problems due to poor circulation, which can lead to swelling, deformities, and ulcers. By wearing a support hose, people can increase circulation and protect their feet and ankles from these problems.
  • General well-being. As we age, our circulatory system becomes less efficient, leading to some problems, including fatigue, heaviness in the legs, swelling, and even varicose veins. Compression socks can help to improve circulation and alleviate some of these issues.

As with anything in life, there can be drawbacks to wearing compression stockings, and we’ll explore some side-effects so you can recognize them if they happen to you.

Side Effects of Support Hose for the Elderly

Despite the many health benefits you will experience when wearing compression hosiery, there are some potential adverse side effects to keep an eye out for, which are as follows:

  • Marks or indentations on the skin. Skin markings or indentations can occur when the socks are too tight or if the person wearing them has sensitive skin. Luckily, the indentations are usually not painful, but they can be unsightly.
  • Redness, itching, or rashes on the skin. These common side effects are usually due to the socks being too tight or made of materials that don’t breathe well. If you feel any of these side effects, try loosening the socks or wearing a different type of sock.
  • Bad smell due to sweating. Because support stockings cause your feet to sweat more than usual, you may develop an unpleasant smell in your foot area. To offset this unwanted side-effect, you can try wearing socks made from materials that wick away moisture, such as wool or synthetic fibers, or sprinkling a little bit of Talcum powder inside your socks before putting them on.
  • No blood circulation. If your compression socks are too tight or have folds, you may be at risk for halted blood circulation. This serious side-effect can cause tingling, numbness, and pain in your legs and feet and can potentially lead to amputation. 
  • Inflammation of joints and ankles. Sometimes, if compression socks are too tight, they can cause inflammation in the joints instead of preventing it. 
  • Increase in swelling of the feet and ankles. If you’ve been standing or sitting for long periods of time or if you have heart failure or another condition that causes swelling in your hands or feet, you may notice increased swelling in your lower extremities from wearing your support stockings. 
  • Allergic reaction to the material of the socks. People with allergies to materials like nylon or spandex may have an allergic reaction causing itchiness, redness, and swelling when wearing their socks. 
  • Corns, calluses, infections, or warts. These painful conditions can develop from wearing compression socks if the hosiery is not properly cared for. Make sure to wash your hands before and after handling your compression socks, which will help prevent the spread of bacteria or other germs that could cause an infection. 

If you notice any of these potentially serious side effects while wearing your compression socks, make sure to take them off and immediately check with your doctor. Here are some more tips for using your stockings.

Tips for Seniors Regarding the Use of Compression Socks

Here are a few tips that will ensure you get the most out of your compression stockings:

Use the Correct Size of Compression Socks for the Elderly

When it comes to supporting stockings, size matters. That’s why ensuring you or your elderly loved ones wear the right size is important. Compression socks for the elderly come in a wide range of sizes, so there’s bound to be a perfect fit out there.

So how do you know what size of support stocking to get? The answer is twofold: first, you need to know the circumference of your leg (just below the knee is fine), and second, you need to match that measurement with the size chart of the manufacturer of the socks you’re interested in. 

Use the Appropriate Compression Level

Compression socks come in various compression levels, from light to extra-firm, and it’s essential to choose the right level of compression for your needs. If you have mild swelling, you may only need light compression, but if you’re experiencing more severe swelling, you may need extra-firm compression. 

Do Not Wear Compression Socks During Sleep

It is not advisable to wear compression stockings to sleep, because wearing compression socks while sleeping can cause discomfort and may even lead to skin breakdown. 

Additionally, compression stockings are designed to be worn during the day when you are up and about so that they can help improve circulation;  if you wear your stockings to sleep, you run the risk of blood clots due to decreased circulation as you rest.

Compression Socks Make a Great Gift

Support hosiery or compression socks are a great option if you’re looking for a gift for your elderly loved one. They can help improve circulation, relieve pain and swelling, and decrease the risk of vascular issues.

It’s Time to Take Care of Your Feet

Compression socks are an easy, cost-efficient way to decrease pain and swelling, manage the symptoms of medical conditions, and increase your quality of life, or the general well-being of your elderly loved one. With so many options out there, it might be a little overwhelming to pick the right one for you.

Don’t stress. Just make sure that you do your research and find the appropriate size and level of compression for your needs. After that, just sit back (or stand up) and enjoy the benefits of improved circulation and pain management. Your feet will thank you!

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