Thursday, February 24, 2011

Living Better with Dysautonomia (Help #4: Compression)

Help #4: Compression Stockings

POTS affects blood flow. Because my body does not respond properly to gravity, blood that should be circulated into my head ends up pooled in my legs and abdomen when I am upright. This leaves me feeling lightheaded with a rapid heart rate and low blood pressure - perfect ingredients to feel faint and ill. When I put on compression hose, the stockings squeeze the vessels in my legs to keep blood from settling there. This increases my ability to stand and sit up and helps get more blood/oxygen where it's needed most - my head!

Never fear! You won't look (too) weird in these. :) When covered by pants and socks, they are hardly noticeable.

The best part about compression stockings is that they are constantly working. Unlike medication that has to be taken on time and can wear off, these stretchy socks remain tight and effective for as long as I need to be upright.

Summertime used to make me hesitate to use compression hose. For one thing, I wanted to wear sandals, and for another, I didn't want to feel too hot. But without compression, I found that my ability to stand with minimal symptoms was severely limited. Support stockings are worth the sacrifice to remain vertical. I have invested in lightweight crop pants and a cute pair of closed-toe summer flats that look just as nice as sandals; these enable me to wear my compression hose inconspicuously even in warm weather. Another alternative is to purchase open-toe stockings.

For special occasions like a party, I like to switch from the knee-high to the full-length hose. That extra support on my upper legs and abdomen is noticeable and helps me to remain more clear-headed when trying to keep up with conversation. I won't lie and say that the full-length are easy to put on, but once the wrestling is over, it's well worth the sacrifice to have that extra boost to my blood flow all day.

Now, the main questions I had when first buying compression hose are:
"what brand?"
"what strength?"
"where to buy?"

  • My preferred brand is Jobst. (comfortable and hold up very well)
  • My doctor recommended 15-20 mmHg strength for me. (could be different for you!)
  • My preferred store is

BrightLife offers a variety of brands at different prices and allows you to try on and return stockings that don't fit. Through their site, I found athletic knee-high socks which are a nice change of pace from the pantyhose version. I was also able to try two brands of full-length stockings to determine which sheer style worked best for me.

Ideally, it's good to replace your stockings every 4 to 6 months (since they get stretched out), but I've found that with good care and rotation of multiple pairs, I can use them longer, understanding that my older socks aren't quite as effective as my newer ones.

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