If you have ever experienced leg swelling or happen to know someone suffering from edema, then you know how discomforting that can be.
Leg, foot, or ankle swelling can occur due to the buildup of excess fluids in the body and poor blood circulation. Some swelling is mild and is not accompanied by pain, while in some instances, swelling requires serious treatment. In such cases, your healthcare provider may advise the use of compression socks to lessen the swelling. Or they may have you combine the use of compression socks with medication if the swelling is severe and a result of potentially dangerous causes.
What Makes Your Legs Swell? It Could Be Edema
Anybody can experience leg swelling, and the causes vary from leg injuries to suffering from certain conditions. It may also be connected to an individual’s day-to-day activities—think of a nurse’s grueling shift or a pilot’s long-distance flight.But if you are experiencing swollen legs and can’t help but wonder what the problem may be, it could be a condition called edema.
Can compression socks help reduce the leg swelling? Yes, and we will get to how that works in a jiffy. But first, let’s talk about what edema is.
What Is Edema?
Edema is a blood circulation-related condition. It occurs when the legs are inflamed as a result of the small spaces surrounding the tissues, and organs are filled with abnormal amounts of fluids.
Damage to fluid-filled capillaries leads to more fluids leaking as the body tries to compensate for the lost water. The kidneys retain more water to balance the loss, but they may overcompensate.
Further leakage into body tissues causes swelling, which is often referred to as edema.
How do you go about solving this? Compression socks for swelling (edema) can help stop your swelling now.
When Do You Use Compression Stockings If You Have Edema?
In most cases, edema affects the legs, ankles, and feet.
Edema can occur as a result of excessive pressure exerted on these body parts when you stand or sit for long hours.
Peripheral edema is not directly linked to any specific disease and can result from different causes:
- insect bite
- a strained muscle
So, you may need to use compression socks or sleeves for various reasons, most of the time under the advice of your doctor.
How Compression Socks Help Alleviate Edema Affects
When you have leg swelling and your medical practitioner advises that its edema, then you will need compression wear.
A doctor or healthcare provider will tell you to wear compression stockings to prevent fluid buildup or excess retention in the legs. As noted, these cause swelling.
Compression socks are made to exert pressure on the swollen legs, reducing the swelling. These stockings ease the leg swelling, providing comfort and relief from pain.
How Compression Socks Work to Reduce Swelling
Here is what happens to your swollen feet when you wear compression stockings.
The design of compression socks and sleeves is tailored so that they exert pressure on the swelling and help gently push fluids up the limbs. They work by balancing the flow of fluids (blood) throughout the body.
The socks fit snugly and gently compress your legs, allowing blood to flow smoothly from the heart to the legs and back. What’s the benefit? There’s proper flow of blood and other fluids within the body.
In addition to reducing swelling, they also lessen the pain from edema by offering support and comfort to the affected part.
Here’s the information you’ll need from your doctor:
- advice on the swelling (edema)
- type of compression socks to wear (depending on the severity of the swelling)
- how and when to wear the compression socks
For instance, if you suffer from peripheral edema, your doctor may advise you to use compression stockings that fit up to the knee or below.
Graduated stockings, which offer the highest compression, work best for patients who maybe be suffering from lymphoedema. With graduated stockings, the ankle gets the most pressure, and the pressure decreases up the leg. So, if you suffer from ankle swelling, these socks will help you move freely without straining. You are likely to get fast relief if you use the right compression socks.
Note: in most cases, the use of compression socks will require a recommendation from a medical expert.
How Long You Should Wear Compression Socks to Reduce the Effects of Edema
Compression stockings can be worn to prevent leg swelling after an injury or workout. However, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a health care provider to guide you on which compression socks to wear and for how long, depending on the nature of your swelling. For a patient suffering from edema, doctors may advise you to wear compression socks for several months.
You will need to visit your doctor for regular checkups on the status of the edema swelling. After the checkup, the doctor will advise you on whether you need to wear compression stockings in the future or not.
Some patients seek alternative medication to help control leg edema, such as diuretics or pills prescribed by a health caregiver. With combined therapy, the period for wearing compression socks is shortened significantly.
What Might Trigger More Swelling—Even When You Put On Compression Socks?
As noted above, simple swelling can be triggered by common factors like standing or sitting for too long, pregnancy, leg injury, or being overweight. Such swelling should go away after a few days or after trying simple remedies to ease the swelling.
But edema can become severe. Here are some of the factors that could be making your edema worse.
1. Medical Conditions.
Conditions such as congestive heart failure, and kidney, thyroid, liver, or lung diseases are major causes of edema. A heart that is unable to circulate blood properly can affect the flow of blood, leading to edema or increasing the swelling.
Blood pressure medications are known to cause body swelling. Pain relievers can also worsen edema.
If you suffer from edema, you need to explain to your doctor if you use medication so that they can advise you accordingly and not worsen the situation.
Pregnant women are known to experience swelling of the legs and ankles. This is caused by the excess pressure the uterus exerts on the blood vessels on the lower part of the body.
A pregnant woman who stands or sits for long hours may experience increased severity of edema.
4. Excessive Consumption of Salts.
Too much salt intake affects the kidneys and the amount of fluid in the body. This can worsen edema swelling even when one is taking medication. So, those with edema should use minimal amounts of salt.
5. Poor Nutrition, Allergic Reactions, and Blood Clots.
6. Damaged Lymph Vessels.
When the lymph vessels can no longer function normally, lymphatic fluid accumulates, leading to several infections or worse: complete deformation.
In cases like this, the swelling will also increase, so it is smart to schedule a checkup well before this occurs.
Radiotherapy patients are at a higher risk of suffering from lymphoedema. Moreover, those who have undergone lymph node removal are also predisposed to lymphoedema. If you have undergone any of these and experience severe swelling, contact your health practitioner as soon as possible.
Are 20-30 mmHg Socks Good for Swollen Legs?
Compression wear comes in different support levels. Each is worn to suit different purposes, though the majority of compression stockings are used to regulate blood flow. Always seek the advice of a medical practitioner before choosing compression socks of 20mmHg and above.
Compression socks have pressure levels starting as low as 8-15mmHg (mild compression). These can be obtained over the counter and are used to prevent minor swelling of the feet, ankle, and legs. They are also useful for maintaining healthy legs.
15-20 mmHg (medium compression) is appropriate for first-time wearers of compression stockings. They come in handy when experiencing leg fatigue, aching, swollen feet, ankles, and legs. Pregnant women can use these as well as those who travel for long hours. The medium pressure socks are useful in relieving moderate varicose veins.
20-30 mmHg (firm compression) stockings are good therapy for moderate to severe edema. Doctors may recommend the firm compression wear if the edema swelling is not very severe. The high pressure is most effective when it comes to regulating fluid and blood flow throughout the body, and it reduces swelling significantly.
The firm compression stockings can help prevent orthostatic hypotension—a condition where a person standing for long hours experiences a sharp drop in blood pressure. 20-30mmHg stockings are the best for anyone suffering from this. Check out our specially designed 20-30 mmHg compression socks, perfect for people with edema.
30-40 mmHg (extra firm compression) is used in the treatment of severe edema and lymphedema. Severe edema requires extra pressure to normalize the blood flow to the legs and feet.
Other Ways to Reduce Swelling While Using Compression Socks
Leg and foot swelling can be irritating. Imagine being unable to wear your knee-length dress because of swollen legs, varicose veins, or edema. Or imagine that your favorite shoes don’t fit when you want to go for dinner!
Edema can prevent you from performing your regular duties, inhibit mobility, and cause discomfort. There are hundreds of ways to reduce feet swelling caused by normal triggers or avoid it completely. You shouldn’t worry if you notice your legs are swollen after standing the whole day; this is a common occurrence and easily manageable.
Tips for Handling Swollen Legs and Feet at Home
If your work involves sitting or standing for long hours, take regular breaks by walking or sitting to let your legs stretch. Edema decreases if there is a proper distribution of pressure on the feet and legs. Below are some tips on how to mitigate edema.
- Lie down in an elevated posture so that your swollen legs are above your chest to balance the flow of blood and fluids.
- Eat fewer salts and carbohydrates, because this will minimize the accumulation of fluids in the vessels causing edema.
- If you are overweight, exercise regularly to lose excess weight.
- Take short breaks to stand and move around when traveling for long hours.
- Wear loose clothes around the thighs to ensure smooth blood flow from the heart to the legs and back.
Is Wearing Compression Socks at Night Helpful for Relieving Edema?
Generally, the best practice is not to sleep while wearing compression wear. Mainly, this is because it can be counteractive and increase swelling instead of relieving it.
Even though some athletes say that they go to bed in these socks, this is not recommended if you experience swelling during the day. Remove compression stockings before going to bed and put them on in the morning to help prevent leg swelling throughout the day, since this is when your body exerts pressure on your feet and affects blood and fluid circulation.
If you want to wear compression socks at night, seek a doctor’s recommendation on what type of graduated compression socks you can use.