What are Spider Veins?
Spider veins are characterized by a bulging and pooling of blood in the lower extremities due to malfunctioning vein valves. Its appearance is characterized by small blue and purple veins near the surface of the skin that typically appear around the legs, but can also appear in other areas of the body like the facial region. While its concerns are mainly cosmetic, more serious cases can cause pain, ulcers, and inability to stand or walk for long periods of time. A similar condition to spider veins is varicose veins, which are larger.
How Can Compression Stockings Help with Spider Veins?
Compression stockings are the simplest form of treatment and prevention for spider veins. Compression stockings help support weak veins by providing extra pressure that keep blood and fluids moving against gravity. Hence, pooling of blood in the legs can be avoided, reducing the risks of spider veins. The exterior force provided by the stocking can also support connective tissues through the same idea. The amount of pressure required on a person's veins to avoid spider veins varies. Fortunately, there are several types of compression stockings available to fit individual needs.
Types of Compression Stockings
There are three types of compression stockings to choose from for treating and preventing spider veins:
- Support pantyhose: These compression stockings offer the least amount of pressure.
- Over-the-counter compression hose: These offer more pressure than support pantyhose and are typically sold in drugstores.
- Prescription compression hose: These types of stockings offer the most pressure and are found in drugstores and medical supply stores. A specially trained individual is required to help for fitment for this type of compression stocking.
What Else Can Compression Stockings Help With?
Aside from their use for spider veins, compression stockings are increasingly used as a part of compression therapy. Patients who have connective tissue problems or have weak veins may be encouraged to wear compression clothing to help support his or her connective tissues or veins. For individuals who are at risk of vein related conditions, compression stockings may be worn as a preventative method. Below are some medical conditions that may require compression stockings as part of preventative measure or therapy:
- Deep vein thrombosis: DVT occurs when a thrombus, or blood clot, forms in a large vein in the body and blocks blood circulation. The area of affection is typically the lower limbs of the body. Compression stockings have been found to be an effective pain reliever and preventative method against DVT.
- Lymphedema: When a problem occurs in the lymphatic system, which is responsible for draining, fluids tend to retain in our bodies. Compression stockings, in this case, can help decrease swelling in the lower limbs. Edema may be a result of other underlying medical problems, so be sure to see a doctor to properly diagnose and treat the condition.
- Hernia: A hernia occurs when an internal body part abnormally protrudes from an opening of the surrounding supporting muscle tissue, beyond its normal body cavity. This condition usually happens due to weak connective tissues and muscles that cannot withstand the body's internal pressure. Compression stockings and hosiery may help in the prevention of femoral and some inguinal hernias.
Who Should Consider Wearing Compression Stockings
Aside from those who have already developed spider veins, certain individuals may be more at risk for vein or connective tissue related illnesses, and may want to consider using compression stockings as a preventative measure. Of course, be sure to consult your physician before implementing any measures.
- Pregnant women: Women who are with child are more at risk for edema, deep vein thrombosis, hernia, and spider veins due to hormonal changes. The weight of the developing baby may also cause increased internal pressure, which may disrupt vein valves and put stress on connective tissues in the lower limbs.
- The elderly: As adults age, the structure of the veins and connective tissues may degrade over time due to aging. Hence, compression stockings are a great way to prevent spider veins and provide support for the lower limbs.
- Frequent travelers: Individuals who travel extensively and are required to sit for long periods of time are more prone to developing spider veins than others because of lack of movement. Compression stockings can be an effective preventative measure for these frequent travelers.
- Family history: Individuals with a family member who has spider veins, and those with weak vein valves are at an increased risk for developing spider veins and should consider wearing compression stockings for prevention.
Although compression stockings and hosiery have historically been associated with the unfashionable or the ill, vendors today have come up with fashion-forward options that don't even look like compression clothing. For example, lower leg stockings now look more like fashionable leg warmers, while hosiery looks more like a pair of trendy tights. They can be easily paired with other clothing or worn discreetly under pants. If you suffer from spider veins, talk to your physician about medical compression stockings, and see what type is right for you.