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What is compression therapy?

What is compression therapy?


In patients with venous disease, the internal walls of the leg veins are deteriorated and the small valves are defective and incompetent. When a valve is incompetent, either in the deep or superficial vein system, blood flows backwards towards the foot. This is called reflux. When valves are incompetent in the superficial veins only, the deep veins have to carry more blood towards the heart. To compensate, the veins expand and the valves may not close properly. When this happens, such as in the case of severe varicose veins, the deep vein system may also become incompetent. When blood is no longer pumped effectively from the lower leg, the peripheral veins will not be emptied even when walking. They remain filled with blood and the pressure in the vein will not decrease. This condition is known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) which may result in oedema, skin change and in some cases ulcerations.

Wearing SIGVARIS medical compression stockings combined with movement will ease the venous blood return, decrease the hypertension, and slow down the progression of the disease. Click on the following links to see specific information on the respective application field of compression stockings:  

Signs and symptoms of venous diseases

Depending on degrees of severity, symptoms of venous disease or Chronic Venous Disorders (CVD) include:

  • Feeling of swelling 
  • Feeling of heaviness in the legs 
  • Pain or cramps in the calves 
  • Skin discolorations
  • White atrophy
  • Dermatoliposclerosis 
  • Dermatitis (skin problems) 
  • Dry or weeping eczema 
  • Venous leg ulcer (open wound)

Acute manifestations of venous disease are serious disorders such as superficial (SVT) or deep venous thrombosis (DVT). These disorders usually occur suddenly without pre-existing conditions, but can also be triggered by chronic venous disease. (see Chronic venous disease, Acute venous disease).

Causes of venous diseases

The causes of venous disease are not clearly identified yet. Considering risk factors we have to differentiate between varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency.

Risk factors for varicose veins are:
  • genetic disposition (history of varicose veins in the family)
  • gender (1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 5 men are affected)
  • pregnancy (30% of women will develop varicose veins during the first pregnancy, and 55% will during their second and following pregnancies)
  • age (people older than 50, as older people are more susceptible to develop varicose veins)
Risk factors for chronic venous insufficiency are:
  • professions requiring prolonged standing or sitting
  • gender (women develop edema more often)
  • obesity (CVI may develop even without reflux or obstruction in the veins)
  • age (older people are more susceptible to develop venous disease)
Can we cure venous diseases?

Defective venous valves of varicose veins cannot be replaced or fixed. Superficial venous refluxes can be repaired by surgical removal or sclerotherapy of the varicose vein(s). However, chronic venous disease due to deep venous incompetence - such as in post-thrombotic syndrome - can only be treated by valve repair or neo-valve construction in isolated cases.

Chronic venous disease evolves with time. The therapy consists of methods that help to reduce the "ambulatory venous hypertension". Phlebologists, - physicians specialized in veno-lymphatic diseases -, all agree that compression stockings are THE basic treatment of venous disease. This is the reason why medical compression stockings are recognized as a medicine.

Wearing SIGVARIS medical compression stockings combined with movement will ease the venous blood return, decrease the hypertension, and slow down the progression of the disease.

The concept of compression therapy is based on a simple and efficient mechanical principle consisting of applying an elastic garment around the leg.

By compressing the limb with graduated compression (strongest at the ankle and decreasing going up the leg), the compression stocking acts as a layer of muscle by gently squeezing the stretched vein walls together, allowing the valves to close. The cavity of the vein is reduced, thereby restoring blood flow to a normal state and aiding overall circulation.

Compression socks and stockings help the venous return, decrease venous pressure, prevent venous stasis and impair of venous walls, and efficiently relieve aching and heavy legs.

Indications and Contraindications

This treatment is prescribed by a physician to treat phlebitis, thrombosis, post vein surgery, and to relieve all manifestations of chronic venous disease (heavy legs, varicose veins, oedema, leg ulcers). It can also be prescribed to prevent venous troubles during pregnancy and long distance travel.

Contraindications are limited: advanced peripheral obstructive arterial disease, severe uncontrolled congestive heart failure, septic phlebitis, oozing dermatitis, advanced peripheral neuropathy. Very few cases of allergy have been reported to one of the components.

There are no secondary effects with compression therapy treatment when manufacturer's sizing chart is strictly followed.

Compression levels

Compression stockings are available in different degrees of compression depending on the severity of the pathology to be treated (see Indications). The pressure exerted by a compression stocking at ankle level is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Compression levels are defined according to different official norms (AFNOR in France, GZG in Germany).

The physician prescribes the compression level corresponding to the pathology of the patient.

Treatment dispensation

Depending on the pathology, medical compression therapy can be applied in different forms: socks, stockings (calf or thigh-length), pantyhoses, sleeves.

The current new textures and fashion designs of SIGVARIS® compression products make compliance with the treatment much better and effective. As worldwide leading specialist in compression therapy, SIGVARIS® provides hightech state-of-the-art products combining high quality yarns and product development, proven medical efficacy, comfort and fashion.