One of the major health risks associated with diabetes is an increased risk of injury and infection in the feet. Excessive swelling caused by the pooling of blood in the feet, also called edema, is common among those suffering from diabetes. Venous or arterial ulcerations on the lower legs are also common among those suffering from diabetes. These open sores can become the site of dangerous infections if left untreated. Compression socks are often prescribed to help alleviate some of these symptoms by improving blood circulation in the legs and helping to prevent the sores and infections. They also help to prevent formation of deep vein blood clots in the legs which can come loose and become lodged in the lungs, causing pulmonary problems and potentially death. Most compression socks prescribed for diabetic patients have a moderate compression of 15 mmHg but stronger ones are available.
What Are Compression Socks?
Compression socks are made of elastic and are generally knee-high. The compression causes increased pressure on the leg which causes surface arteries and veins to compress. This compression causes an increase in arterial pressure by reducing the diameter of the arteries and increases the venous blood flow back to the heart and allowing less blood to pool in the feet. Most compression socks are tightest around the foot and ankle and then become looser towards the knee to maximize the circulation in the lower leg. These graduated compression socks are the most common type prescribed to diabetic patients. The correct sizing of compression socks is crucial for patients as socks that are too big are not effective in increasing blood flow and socks that are too small can cut off circulation to the feet and lower legs. Diabetic patients are instructed to put compression socks on first thing in the morning and to leave them on until they return to bed at night for maximum effectiveness.
Socks made for and marketed to diabetes patients often have some sort of anti-microbial fibers and moisture wicking fibers woven in to help prevent infection. The anti-microbial fibers help keep bacteria away from open sores and the wicking properties of the sock help keep open sores dry and reduce the rate of bacterial growth. Compression socks are also made seamless to reduce any sort of rubbing or irritation caused by socks and seams moving around on the foot. The inherent tightness of the sock on the foot helps prevent blisters that could form with regular socks. The soles of these socks are created with extra padding to further reduce the potential for foot irritation or injury.
Compression socks can be used to treat a variety of ailments in addition of side-effects of diabetes. They are often worn by pregnant women who also suffer from edema frequently and by people who are bedridden after surgery to prevent the formation of blood clots in the legs due to inactivity. Those embarking on trans-oceanic airline flights where they will be sitting vertically without moving for many hours will also wear compression socks to reduce the risk of clot formation in the lower legs by increasing the blood flow through their calves and feet. Recently, athletes have also been using compression clothing to help muscle recovery after a hard workout by increasing circulation in the legs and arms.