Aging & Health A to Z
Varicose Veins and Other Vein Disorders
Care & Treatment
You can take steps to help prevent venous problems from becoming more serious.
Elastic Support Stockings (Compression Stockings)
Wearing support stockings is usually the first step in treating venous problems. Though they don’t get rid of your vein problems, they can help improve pain, swelling, and other symptoms.
Your healthcare professional will help determine the stocking style, size, and amount of compression (tightness) that is right for you. Some stockings can be purchased without a prescription. Or, you may get a prescription for stockings that need to be measured and fitted by a pharmacist or medical supplier.
It’s up to your healthcare professional to decide whether compression stockings are right for you. If you have circulation problems due to diabetes or other conditions, compression stockings can decrease the blood supply further and worsen the condition.
Tips on using compression stockings
- Put the stockings on as soon as you get out of bed and keep them on all day.
- You can also purchase the stockings online, sometimes at a discounted price.
- Replace the stockings when they begin to lose their elasticity and tightness, usually every 3 to 4 months.
- Compression stockings can be hard to put on, especially if you have problems using your hands. The pharmacy or medical supply store sells devices that can help.
- Remove the stockings and notify your healthcare professional if your toes become cold, blue, painful or numb while wearing the compression stockings.
If you develop sores (skin ulcers) on your legs or feet, see your healthcare professional. He or she may suggest treating them with antibiotics, foot soaks, and surgical or chemical cleansing and will check your circulation.
If you have vein problems, your healthcare professional may prescribe blood thinners (anticoagulants) to prevent blood clots from forming. Aspirin is the first course of treatment, starting with a coated, low-dose (81 mg) aspirin once a day. If you are taking a long airplane flight, your healthcare professional may advise you to take a full dose aspirin (325 mg) a day or two before and after you fly.
If you have a blood clot, you may need an injection of a stronger anticoagulant, such as heparin, followed by an oral anticoagulant, such as warfarin, for a period of several months. Your healthcare professional will monitor your blood clotting time frequently while you’re taking these medications.
Cosmetic surgery can remove varicose veins temporarily, but they usually return.
Healthcare professionals usually avoid invasive surgery in older adults, because the risk of anesthesia isn’t worth the cosmetic results. These types of surgeries include stripping (removing) or tying off the veins. However, your healthcare professional may recommend surgery if serious varicose veins lead to skin ulcers, bleeding, blood clots, or deep vein thrombosis. Some newer, non-invasive treatments with lasers might be an option for you. Your healthcare professional will talk with you about which of a variety of surgical procedures, is best for you.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012