The compression stockings with the largest benefit have graded compression strength, in contrast to ungraded stockings. Graded compression stockings are narrower at the ankle than the top. The grading helps to pump the blood back towards the heart and thus supports the circulation.
Compression stockings with relatively lower compression levels, as well as support stockings, can be purchased without prescription in drug stores and healthcare supply stores.
These prescription-free items are usually available in compression levels of around 15–20 mmHg.
Compression stockings with higher compression levels are prescribed by doctors. The prescription indicates the specific strength you require. No prescription is required according to law, but most pharmacies will not dispense compression clothing with higher compression levels without a prescription.
Higher compression levels indicate strengths ranging from 20–30 mmHg to 30–40 mmHg. Although these strengths are generally safe to wear, there is a risk for some persons that they may be injured owing to contraindications. It is therefore always recommended to consult a doctor. There are compression levels in even higher ranges; however, please consult a doctor regarding these.
A medical specialist must measure you to ensure you receive the correct compression and size. If your doctor cannot perform the fitting, you should be referred to someone who can.
For what medical problems are the different compression levels used? A broad overview is provided below.
These are general guidelines. The severity of a problem helps to determine the level required.
As mentioned above, you should consult your doctor regarding the compression level appropriate for you.
23–32 mmHg; the most frequent compression level prescribed by doctors
at least 49 mmHg
There may also be other reasons. Make sure that your doctor is aware of your medical history before they prescribe compression stockings.
The term “support stockings” is widely known and often also used for medical compression wear. The principles of the two types of stockings are different, though.
Support stockings exert passive resistance to swelling, while compression stockings apply active pressure on the veins of the leg. This prevents them from dilating and facilitates venous return.
Medical compression garments are produced under strict medical and technical specifications to guarantee adequate ankle pressure and graduated compression along the leg.