When Do Diabetic Patients Need Compression Socks?
“The use of the SIGVARIS mild (18-25mmHg) compression diabetic socks showed statistically significant decreases in calf, ankle and foot circumferences in our study, and may help patients with diabetes and lower extremity edema without compromising lower extremity vascularity.” ~ Dr. Stephanie Wu of the Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine, William Scholl College of Podiatry in Chicago.
If you are someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes, you have probably been working closely with your physician, diabetic educator and pharmacist on how to best take care of your health with an important emphasis on your legs and feet. You have been told to inspect your feet and legs daily and you may even need to wear special shoes and socks specifically designed for diabetic patients. People with diabetes often have circulation problems that can cause peripheral edema (swelling) in their feet, ankles and legs.
There are many causes of peripheral edema, not necessarily related to diabetes, such as standing or sitting for long periods of time, physical inactivity, heredity, pregnancy, surgery and trauma and some illnesses. Peripheral edema can also be associated with more serious conditions – many of which can be associated with diabetes complications such as heart disease, venous insufficiency, and kidney disease. Certain diabetes medications can also cause edema.
Did you know there is a difference between a diabetic sock and a diabetic compression sock? New research shows that, for many diabetic patients, compression socks can help keep legs and feet healthy, as well as allow the patient to have a more active lifestyle. Wearing graduated compression socks and hosiery has been a mainstay for reducing and maintaining edema in people since the 1950s. Peripheral Edema is normally caused by something known as Venous Insufficiency. The information on this website is designed to help you and your physician make an informed decision to whether wearing diabetic compression socks is right for you.
How Do Compression Socks Help Venous Insufficiency?
For decades, graduated compression socks and hosiery have been proven to effectively promote venous blood flow by providing a gentle graduated support to leg veins and valves. A calf-length compression stocking goes over the calf muscle to be most effective. This gentle “squeeze” helps the vein walls return to their normal state, allowing the valves to properly function, thus aiding the blood flow back toward the lungs and heart.
Graduated compression socks and hosiery come in different levels of compression, known as millimeters of mercury (expressed as mmHg) and, for diabetics, should be worn under the direction of a physician. A mild level (up to 25mmHg) of graduated compression will help reduce the symptoms of swelling, tired and achy legs, spider and varicose veins and other leg discomfort. Higher levels of compression are a noted caution or contraindication for a diabetic patient. Your doctor can help determine the correct amount of compression to help reduce the swelling in your legs.
Did You Know: Diabetics Have A Higher Risk of DVT?
Diabetics are at an increased risk of developing blood clots (known as Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT). The cause of a DVT is influenced by three factors:
- thickness of the blood
- rate of the blood flow
- quality of the vessel wall
High glucose (sugar) levels can result in dehydration, and dehydration thickens the blood, which can help lead to the development of a blood clot. A DVT can lead to two complications: First, a DVT can break loose and travel into the lungs (known as a pulmonary embolism or PE), causing symptoms resembling a heart attack (shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid pulse). A PE can even lead to death. However, if the DVT can be prevented, the risk of PE is eliminated. The Center for Disease Control recommends wearing graduated compression socks to help prevent DVT.
Another complication of a DVT, known as Post- Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS), is a long-term condition (skin changes, ulcers, and other painful symptoms) greatly affecting the quality of life. Clinical evidence supports the use of graduated compression stockings to help prevent the development of DVT. Talk with your doctor regarding this risk and what else you can do to reduce it.
Diabetic Socks vs. SIGVARIS Diabetic Compression Socks
With so much emphasis placed on proper diabetic footwear, it is important that your diabetic socks have the correct size, fit, fiber and construction. Most diabetic socks are soft, provide padding on the sole of the foot, and should conform to the foot/ leg without wrinkles. They may be seamless or have a “flat seam” against the toes/foot. The fibers should wear evenly, instead of leaving thin spots where friction can occur and offer moisture-wicking properties to minimize the risk of infection and blisters.
Source: Stephanie C. Wu, Ryan T. Crews, Bijan Najafi, Nancy Slone-Rivera, Jessica L. Minder, Charles A. Andersen. Safety and Efficacy of Mild Compression (18–25 mm Hg) Therapy in Patients with Diabetes and Lower Extremity Edema. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, May 2012, Volume 6, Issue 3: pages 641–647.