How Compression Socks Help With Edema Treatment

Updated on October 16, 2020

No matter if your job requires you to be standing on your feet or sitting down for hours, eventually you will start feeling some discomfort in your legs. Even if you wake up well-rested in the morning, by the time you get home, your feet might be achy and swollen. The swelling you would be feeling is called edema and it is a quite common health issue among people. According to epidemiological studies conducted in London, UK, the prevalence of chronic edema increases with age and it is much higher in women than in men. It also affected the overall quality of life with 50% of the people experiencing pain and discomfort in their legs.  

There are many remedies which can help you decrease edema and keep it from coming back. For example, being more physically active can help reduce swelling in your feet and ankles. Other ways are holding your swollen feet elevated or gently massaging the affected areas. However, one remedy that has proven helpful in treating edema is compression socks. Before we go on to talk about the benefits of wearing compression socks for edema, we must explain what edema actually is.

Photo by Parents Canada

What is edema and what causes it?

In general, edema occurs when excess fluid is trapped in body tissues. It is caused by poor circulation which usually occurs in the lower parts of your body. The ankles and feet are often most affected by this. There are two types of edema – pedal and peripheral edema. Pedal edema refers to the swelling in the feet and peripheral edema refers to the edema in the ankles, legs and sometimes even the hands. Edema is most common in individuals who suffer from heart diseases or nutritional deficiencies and also pregnant women in their third trimester. Sometimes it can occur after a more serious injury where the fluid in the tissue builds up in the injured area. As it was mentioned earlier, one way of treating edema is by wearing compression socks.

How compression socks treat edema

Compression socks are stretchy socks that gently squeeze your legs. They are different from regular socks because they apply pressure around the affected areas and get looser as they move up your leg. This is called graduated compression, where the pressure is mostly applied around your ankles and it decreases bit by bit as it reaches your calf, knee or thigh. Wearing these socks has been proven effective in many ways. Their main purpose is to promote blood flow from the legs toward the heart. However, there are also other benefits of wearing these socks. For example, they improve blood circulation which is the main cause for edema. They also help prevent blood from pooling in your leg veins. They reduce swelling and pain in the lower parts of your body. They may even stop you from feeling light-headed when you stand up. Because of these many benefits, compression socks are often prescribed by doctors in addition to other medications to treat edema.

Photo by AA Podiatry

Wear compression socks the right way

When you suffer from edema, your doctor will tell you which size and type of compression socks are right for you. In order for the socks to be most effective, you must put them on properly. For example, start by sitting straight up in a chair. Then, roll up one sock and gently place your feet in it. Continue to pull until it completely covers your entire leg and repeat the same steps for the other leg too. Be careful while pulling the socks on to avoid tearing of the fabric. Also, make sure that your legs and feet are clean and dry before you put the socks on. In fact, it is recommended that you put them on first thing in the morning because your feet are well rested and you will be able to get through the day easier. Wearing them at night while sleeping isn’t advised as your legs should be relaxed when you are lying down. Whether you have a mild or severe condition of edema, your doctor will also tell you for how long you should wear the socks. 

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Choosing the right fit for you

Choosing the right fit for your compressions socks is crucial to effectively prevent and treat edema. The best way is to measure your legs in the morning when they are least swollen. However, when you are treating a health condition such as edema, you can consult a health professional to find the best fit for you. There are actually many types and lengths of compression socks with each serving different needs. They can be compression pantyhose, thigh-high stockings or knee-high socks, depending on the type you are looking for. When it comes to the different levels of pressure, they range from light to very strong. The low-level compression socks are mostly worn to help with mild swelling and fatigued legs. They are also helpful for preventing varicose and spider veins. The high-level compression socks are worn for more serious leg health conditions. Whatever the case, it is important that you do thorough research beforehand and consult your doctor if necessary to ensure you are getting the best fit according to your needs.

Proper care for proper wear

No matter if you are suffering from mild or severe edema, taking care of your compression socks is just as important as properly wearing them. Since you will be wearing them on a regular basis, it is recommended that you replace them every few months. This will help them have a longer life span and continued effectiveness. If you feel like putting your socks is easier than usual, then that is a sign that they don’t provide the adequate pressure to your swollen legs like in the beginning. You can also wash them in cold or lukewarm water and air-dry them afterward. 

Photo by Pro Compression

Final thoughts

Even though there are many ways to help you prevent and treat edema, compression socks are the simplest way to do this. Wearing these socks helps you maintain your leg health and prevents other circulatory conditions, too. Just before you get yourself your new pair of compression socks, make sure you consult a health care professional who will help you choose the right fit for you to treat your edema condition.

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