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What Are Lymphedema Stockings?

By Kathy Levine
Updated May 17, 2024
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Lymphedema stockings are made of elastic fibers and rubber. Also known as compression stockings, they fit very snugly and help the blood and lymph systems work more effectively by narrowing the veins in the affected leg. They are typically worn when an individual experiences swelling, heaviness, discomfort, or pain in the leg, ankle, or foot. These symptoms can occur from a variety of medical conditions, including lymphedema, edema, or varicose veins. Compression hose are available from a number of manufacturers, in several levels of compression and in a variety of styles and colors.

Symptoms that may trigger the need for lymphedema stockings include a feeling of tightness or decreased mobility in the ankle or leg; a feeling of fullness in the lower extremities; or tingling, pain, or numbness in the leg. In many instances, swelling occurs and the skin of the affected leg may become rough or thickened as well. Prescribed by a doctor, the stockings help to reduce the size and swelling of the affected area, allow for greater mobility, and decrease the pain in the affected leg.

Compression wear may be purchased through a number of manufacturers, either online or at medical supply stores. Grocery stores, drug stores, and department stores often carry the stockings as well. A proper fit is essential to effectiveness, so a trained professional should assist with fitting and selecting lymphedema stockings. Compression hose may be custom made, but they are typically more expensive than standard lymphedema stockings.

This special type of hosiery is available as knee highs, pantyhose, thigh highs, and support socks. A variety of selections are available for both men and women. The support hose range in price, with a pair of basic sheer knee-highs being the least expensive; pantyhose can run 10 times as much as knee-highs. Once available in only skin-tone shades, compression wear is available in a variety of colors to match any outfit and even special occasion attire.

These particular stockings are often used for the chronic condition lymphedema, which causes swelling of the soft tissue in the limbs due to a build up of lymph fluid. They may be helpful in the prevention of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, as well as for those with varicose veins. In addition, with edema, which is often a complication of surgery for cancer, compression wear may be needed temporarily. In any case, compression stockings are typically only worn throughout the day and are removed in the evening. They can be expected to last four to six months before needing to be replaced.

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