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Support stockings

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have varicose veins. It tells you about support stockings, a treatment used for varicose veins. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

We don't know for certain. There hasn't been much research. Wearing support stockings or tights might mean you get less pain. But we don't know if they help with other symptoms such as swelling or itching. And we don't know if they stop your varicose veins getting worse.

To work properly, the stockings have to be the right size and fit. If they are too tight in one part of the leg, particularly at the top, they could do more harm than good.

What are they?

Support stockings are stockings or tights made of strong elastic. You wear them on your legs through the day and take them off at night. Doctors sometimes call them compression stockings.

The stockings press against your varicose veins to stop them bulging. The stockings are tighter at the bottom of your leg than at the top. This helps the blood flow up your legs. Support stockings can help with aching and improving the appearance of your legs. But they won't get rid of your varicose veins.

Your doctor may advise you to try wearing support stockings if you have veins that are aching or swollen. [2] They may also advise you to try wearing these stockings if your veins aren't bad enough for you to have surgery. [14]

You may want to try these stockings or tights if your varicose veins are not too bad. Some people don't like how these stockings look, but you can get them in different colours and you may be able to wear your own stockings or tights over them. Bear in mind that they are more expensive than ordinary stockings and tights.

It's important to wear stockings specially designed for varicose veins. Ordinary elastic leg supports, such as support tights, apply pressure evenly up the leg and will be extra tight at the top where your leg is thickest. This could make your symptoms worse. [20]

You can buy support stockings for varicose veins at most pharmacies, but you need a prescription from your doctor for some types. Some pharmacies have specially trained staff who can help fit you with support stockings.

To learn more, see Things to know about support stockings.

Last Updated: May 01, 2012
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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