Medical hosiery, especially for the eldery improves circulation by putting pressure on the tissue, which pushes blood and lymphatic fluid from the bottom of your legs upwards so it can return to the heart.
This helps to strengthen the body’s immune response to infection and help prevent health complications arising from illness.
How do the elderly benefit from medical hosiery?
Doctors will often prescribe their elderly patients with compression socks or compression stockings, especially for those who experience impaired circulation and blood flow.
Many of these people also suffer from swelling in their limbs, mainly the legs, due to venous insufficiency or hypertension.
Compression medical hosiery is often preferred by doctors as they are easier to put on and stay on, unlike compression bandages which fall off regularly.
By using graded compression stockings, the veins in the leg constrict and interstitial fluid and blood are pushed upwards towards the heart.
Therefore, circulation and swelling is improved. In addition to improved circulation, this increased pressure prevents the veins from collapsing, clears lactic acid and alleviates leg aches and pains associated with age.
Choosing the medical hosiery
Compression stockings come in several different gradients or strengths, sizes, length and materials.
Based on the recommendation of a Doctor, you can help your elderly loved ones to decide what type of socks would be suitable.
Some elderly may require assistance when putting on their stockings. If they do not pull up easily then this indicates they are not the correct size.
Compression stockings should not cause pain, discomfort or be difficult to put on and off.
The amount of compression is determined in the amount of compression from the ankle to the top in millimeters of mercury (or mmHg).
That calculation is often broken down into classes – Class I, Class II, etc.
The most used compression levels:
- 8-15mmHg – Anti-embolism or “TED”
- 15-20mmHg – Class I or Travel Socks
- 20-30mmHg – Class II
- 30-40mmHg – Class III
Which class is needed will depend on the specific disease or condition and should be based on the recommendation of your elderly loved ones Doctor.
Some medical hosiery is not graded, typically found in pharmacies.
These garments have all-over compression and are not recommended by doctors as they do not push fluids upwards through the legs.
Which conditions does medical hosiery help alleviate?
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that appear blue-ish or purple in appearance.
When vein walls and vein valves become impaired, they stop functioning correctly.
Blood starts to pool in the vein or starts to flow in the incorrect direction.
In 2018 researchers found that those who wore compression stockings with pressure from 18-21 mmHg for a period of only one week experienced a reduction of pain associated with varicose veins.
Venous Leg Ulcers:
Venous ulcers are wounds that occur due to impaired function of venous valves, usually of the legs and are responsible for up to 90% of leg ulcer cases.
Leg ulcers have a recurrence rate of 72% partially caused by patients not adhering to their compression therapy.
In order to manage and decrease the risk of recurrence, a healthy circulatory system is crucial.
Between 50% and 60% of patients with venous leg ulcers heal with compression therapy alone during a six-month period.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT):
DVT is a serious and sometimes fatal condition. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when blood clots form in veins deep inside your body, mainly in the legs.
These clots can break off and travel in the bloodstream to the lungs, which can prevent blood from reaching the lungs and can cause death.
This condition is known as pulmonary embolism.
This study from 2009 showed compression garments can reduce the risk of DVT by 63%.
The lymphatic system has no central pump to move fluid to the lymph glands. A lymphatic system that functions poorly can cause tissues to become swollen with fluid. This is called lymphedema.
Compression is an important treatment for lymphedema – as compressing the affected tissue pushes lymphatic fluids to move toward your torso and heart, and out of the arm or leg in a more normal pattern of circulation.
One study showed that lymphedema after mastectomy was reduced by 17%. Subsequent treatment for ten days produced an additional significant volume decrease of 18%.
Relapse was prevented by further treatment with compression sleeves.
A 2014 study split a total of eighty patients with cellulitis into 2 groups.
One group of patients (group A) were managed with compression therapy and the other group (group B) were not.
Group A had a greater reduction in pain, tenderness, and edema as compared to group B patients.
The length of hospital stay for group A was 10.2 days compared to 13.4 days in group B.
Overall, compression stockings / medical hosiery for the elderly should be used as a preventative measure and for those with existing conditions who need improved circulation.
You should ensure that the medical hosiery are the right size so they are comfortable and not constricting.
Using compression therapy is a great way to keep yourself or your elderly loved ones mobile, healthy and happy.