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Compression bandages and stockings

BMJ Group Medical Reference

There's good evidence that wearing compression bandages or stockings around your lower leg can help your ulcer to heal.

Bandages and stockings squeeze your leg. They relieve the pressure of blood in the veins. This brings down any swelling around your legs and ankles, and improves the blood flow in your veins. This should help your ulcer to heal. [12] [13]

Bandages are normally changed once a week by a nurse. The nurse can also show you how best to keep your leg up when resting.

Most bandages are elasticated (stretchy), although non-elastic bandaging can work just as well. [14] But non-elastic bandages have to be changed more often, because they get looser as the swelling in your leg goes down. [1]

Your bandages or stockings must be fitted correctly. If they are too loose, they won't work. If they are too tight, they could cut off the blood supply to your leg. Look out for your toes changing colour. If they go dusky or purple, your bandages may be too tight. [3] Your nurse can check the blood supply to your feet, using a small machine called a Doppler.

Compression bandages and stockings can cause other problems too. You might find: [15] [16] [17] [18]

  • They hurt

  • Your skin feels itchy or irritated

  • You get some damage to your skin

  • You have a skin reaction if you are allergic to something in the dressing or the covering.

If you are having problems with your bandages or stockings, talk to your nurse. You may need to have them a bit looser, or you might need a different type.

We found strong evidence to show that compression bandages work. [13] One high-quality study (called a randomised controlled trial) looked at 200 people with leg ulcers. [12] More than half the ulcers treated with four layers of bandages healed within three months, but only a third of ulcers without bandages healed.

Having three or four layers of bandages and padding may work better than just having a single layer of bandages. [13] [19]

Research shows compression stocking work at least as well as compression bandages. But we need more research to say whether one is better than the other. [13] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24]

Glossary

randomised controlled trials

Randomised controlled trials are medical studies designed to test whether a treatment works. Patients are split into groups. One group is given the treatment being tested (for example, an antidepressant drug) while another group (called the comparison or control group) is given an alternative treatment. This could be a different type of drug or a dummy treatment (a placebo). Researchers then compare the effects of the different treatments.

For more terms related to Leg ulcers

Citations

For references related to Leg ulcers click here.
Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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