My cardiologist strongly urges me to wear compression socks, also known as support hose, due to a faulty aortic valve resulting in chronic heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. In my case, fluid retention is a major concern. People who use wheelchairs or have reduced mobility are often required to wear compression socks. Physicians often prescribe compressions socks for patients suffering from venous insufficiency, post-thrombotic syndrome, active or healed venous ulcers, lymphedema or heart failure with fluid retention like myself.
There are many types of compression socks on the market. You should always check with a physician prior to purchasing compressions socks to see which type is right for your needs. Compression socks may be purchased in the following compression support levels 8-15mmHg (mild), 15-20mmHg (medium), 20-30 mmHg (firm) or 30-40 mmHg (extra-firm). My cardiologist recommends socks with a support level of 20-30mmHg (firm) to control the swelling in my legs. He also advocates knee socks with a gradient compression. Gradient or graduated compression socks exert continuous and controlled pressure at the foot and ankle with a slow pressure reduction up the calf to the knee or thigh. The strongest compression is at the ankle area to aid in pushing the blood back up the legs to the heart.
However, I found compression socks uncomfortable and difficult to pull up on my feet, ankles, and calves. The open-toe pair that I was given in the hospital cut off blood supply to my toes. The process was a failure until I found someone to assist me with the endeavor. Needless to say, it was a difficult team effort. The first few weeks home from the hospital after my valve replacement surgery, I continued to struggle to pull-on the compression socks with assistance each morning. Slowly, I stopped wearing the compression socks altogether.
When my cardiologist saw that I was not wearing compression socks at my next doctor's visit, he was not pleased, especially since my ankles appeared similar to miniature swim rings due to swelling. Immediately, my cardiologist reached for two elastic sports injury type bandages and began to wrap my ankles and calves. He secured the bandage with four metal grippers. As I sat down in the car for the ride home, two of the grippers popped off. My driver and I searched the floorboard of the car and the ground. We were able to find one of the missing grippers. I could not wait to remove the bandage after the four-hour ride home that afternoon. The bandage was cutting into my legs and ankles. My legs were down, but my feet and ankles were terribly swollen. This was the beginning of my search for the perfect pair of compression socks.
After viewing a commercial for http://seentv.asseenontv.com/tv/Zipper%20Compression%20Socks%20zippered compression socks">zippered compression socks, I ordered a pair. In my dreams, these zippered compression socks would be a perfect fit and easy to pull-up on my legs. The manufacturer posted a size chart for the socks according to shoe size and did not compensate for short people. The socks were plenty large for my 19-inch circumference calves, however, were designed with an average height or tall person in mind. Ingenuity kicked-in and I decided to fold the socks down and use a safety pin to hold the zipper pull in place. This method resulted in cutting off the blood flow below my knees.
So I returned to the hunt for a pair that was closed-toe, would minimize the swelling in my legs, was easy to pull-on and sized by calf circumference and length. At my wellness visit, my primary care physician suggested that I try bamboo socks. She said that gradient compression socks made of bamboo will be much easier to pull-up on my legs. According to my primary care physician, many chain pharmacies and discount stores carry bamboo compression socks. Family members assisted in the search for the perfect pair of 20-30mmHg (firm) bamboo gradient compression socks to fit a short 19-inch calf for approximately two months. Some of the stores carried bamboo gradient compression socks, but either the socks did not accommodate a short 19-inch calf or were not available in a 20-30mmHg (firm) support level.
That's when I turned to the internet. After typing in bamboo gradient compression socks, I found that a popular discount store carries Ecosox. This brand of gradient compression socks are made of bamboo fibers; however, there is no information listed on the site concerning the level of support, calf size, or length of the sock. Futuro brand compression socks can be ordered online through several of the pharmacies, but the fibers of the socks are a typical nylon/spandex blend.
After countless hours of searching through many sites and brands, I finally located a pair of bamboo 20-30mmHg (firm) graduated compression socks by Sockwell that will hopefully meet all my requirements. Sockwell did not list calf or actual length measurements in inches either, therefore, I spoke to a representative via live chat. The representative helped me select a reasonably priced pair of graduated compression socks in a khaki color. Sockwell has a 180-day refund policy. Yes, I said, "wow" too!
In addition to the attractive compression socks, I plan to order a Jobst Stocking Donner. Amazon has one for wide calves. A stocking donner, sometimes referred to as stocking butler, is a device that is used to guide the sock over the foot and leg. The sock is stretched over the device. The individual places a foot inside the sock then grabs the handles of the device to pull the sock up the leg. Amazon also carries compression stocking donning gloves by Jobst. Although the specially designed gloves are very inexpensive, I plan to try rubber gloves first after reading several blogs with this recommendation.
SUMMARY: Check with a physician before selecting a pair of compression socks. Write down his/her recommendation for support level of socks/stockings. Consider length of leg and size of calf, not just shoe size. Solicit assistance guiding the sock over the foot and up the leg either with a device or from an individual.
Image courtesy of Edinburgh University Medical Research Article.