Compression stockings: How hosiery can help circulation and leg swelling.

Compression stockings may never be considered the height of fashion. But when it comes to improving circulation in your lower limbs, they beat anything you might find on the runway.

Blood flow

Normally, muscle contractions in your lower legs act as pumps to send blood upward. At the same time, one-way valves within your veins open as blood flows toward your heart and close to stop blood from flowing backward.

Circulation problems may occur when the walls of veins within your legs become weak or the valves don't work properly. These problems often result after veins have been put under pressure for years--recirculating blood from your lower limbs back to your heart.

Recommended uses

Compression stockings apply mild pressure to your legs to help support the veins and enable their valves to work more efficiently. They're regularly recommended when you have to be off your feet, such as after surgery or during a long plane flight. Doctors also may prescribe compression stockings to help treat certain conditions, including:

* Varicose veins. These enlarged veins in your legs or feet can lost elasticity and stretch out, causing blood to pool in the veins. Compression hose may ease pain and swelling caused by varicose veins or prevent the problem from getting worse.

* Thrombophlebitis. This occurs when a blood clot causes inflammation in one or more of your veins, typically in your legs. The affected vein may be near the surface of your skin (superficial thrombophlebitis) or deep within a muscle (deep...

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