dry skin from compression socks

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Can Wearing Compression Socks Be Harmful?

Compression socks are a popular treatment for tired legs and swelling in your calves. By supporting healthy circulation, these garments can increase your energy levels and lower your risk of blood clots. They can benefit people who work standing up, distance runners, and older adults.

But compression socks aren’t for everyone, and research suggests that using them incorrectly can be harmful.

This article will cover the basics of what you need to know about using compression socks, and how to make sure you’re not doing more harm than good by wearing them.

What are compression socks?

Your circulatory system pumps fresh, oxygen-rich blood through your veins from your heart. Once the oxygen is distributed in your body, the blood is depleted and returns through a different set of veins to get replenished.

The blood in the veins of your legs often has to work against gravity to return to the heart. For this reason, veins and arteries in your legs are more prone to growing weaker and becoming inefficient. That’s where compression socks and stockings come in.

Compression socks apply pressure at your ankles and calves. This gentle, continuous squeeze on the bottom of your circulatory system helps support your veins as they send blood back up to your heart.

Compression socks are recommended by prescription for people with certain medical conditions and family histories. They’re also popular over the counter for people who stand a lot during the day, frequent fliers, and those over age 65.

Are compression socks dangerous to wear?

In general, compression socks are safe to wear when done so correctly. That doesn’t mean that they’re safe for everyone in every situation. Some people shouldn’t use compression socks, such as those with delicate or easily irritated skin. It’s also important that compression socks are properly fitted.

Here are some potential risks to be aware of:

Can cut off your circulation

Compression socks and stockings are meant to provide continuous pressure that supports circulation. But when they aren’t fitted properly, they can have the opposite effect and prevent blood from circulating in your legs.

Can chafe and bruise your legs

If you have dry skin or are traveling in climates with dry air (like on an airplane), your skin is more likely to chafe or scrape. People who have a compromised skin barrier may experience cuts, scrapes, and bruises from compression socks. Note that when compression socks or stockings fit properly, this is far less likely to happen.

Can cause itching, redness, and irritation

Compression socks can aggravate skin irritation and also cause itching. When compression socks are improperly fitted, redness and temporary dents in your skin may appear on your legs at the edge of the sock’s fabric.

What’s the safest way to use compression socks?

The safest way to use compression socks is to follow a healthcare provider’s guidance.

If you’ve been wearing compression socks that you’ve purchased over the counter, or if you want to add compression socks to your routine, talk to a doctor. They can provide recommendations for wear and a prescription for medical-grade prescription socks, if needed.

Remember that most side effects from wearing compression socks only happen when you’re not wearing them correctly.

Best practices for compression socks

Here are some best practices for safely wearing compression socks:

  • Get your compression socks fitted properly by a professional.
  • If you gain or lose weight, get fitted again so that you’re wearing the correct size.
  • Follow instructions from sock or stocking manufacturers and your healthcare provider.
  • Check your skin for changes like redness, dents, dryness, and chafing between every wear.
  • Hand-wash compression socks and hang them to dry to prevent warping or changes in the fabric.
  • Dispose of compression socks after 30 or so wears, or as soon as you notice them losing their stretch.
  • Take your compression socks off every day and replace with a clean, dry pair so that the socks don’t adhere to your skin and become difficult to remove.

When to see a doctor

Compression socks can help treat and prevent deep vein thrombosis and blood clots. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the signs and symptoms of those conditions. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you notice any of the following:

  • swollen, hard veins
  • tenderness or loss of circulation that persists in one or both legs
  • leg cramps that persist in one or both legs
  • redness or warmth in one area of your vein
  • a weak pulse or a pulse that feels out of rhythm
  • bluish or purple skin
  • difficulty breathing or rapid breathing

If you’ve been wearing your compression socks for an extended period of time and have trouble removing them, you may need to go to your doctor for assistance.

Types of compression socks

There are three primary types of compression socks:

  • nonmedical support hosiery
  • graduated compression socks
  • anti-embolism compression socks

Nonmedical support hosiery

Nonmedical support hosiery are what you most likely think of when you hear the words “compression socks.” These types of compression garments are available for anyone to buy over the counter or online.

You can choose the level of pressure that these socks apply based on your comfort level. Nonmedical support hosiery are widely available nationwide and come in many varieties of lengths, fabrics, and patterns.

Graduated compression socks

Graduated compression socks are only available by prescription from your doctor. This type of garment requires a professional fitting, where you’ll be advised on how to use them safely. Your provider should be clear about why you’re using them, how long you should wear them, and other safety factors.

Anti-embolism compression socks

Anti-embolism compression socks are prescribed for individuals who are at increased risk for pulmonary embolisms. Typically, people who are prescribed this type of garment have limited mobility.https://b2ff2f4256d9ebcb47ad327ad1ac1aeb.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Key takeaways

Compression socks are typically safe to wear if you follow a doctor’s guidance and the manufacturer’s instructions. Overusing compression socks and wearing them incorrectly can break your skin and create conditions where an infection can start.

You shouldn’t leave the same pair of compression socks on for days at a time, and you should ask a doctor about the length of wear time recommended for treating your symptoms.

If you’re using compression socks frequently, consider getting a prescription for medical-grade ones. If side effects like broken or bruised skin occur, discontinue using the socks and let your healthcare provider know.

WHEN DRY SKIN PLAGUES YOUR LEGS

Causes and remedies

Dry Skin: Insufficiently Formed Of Lipid Moisture Film

Zoomed in image of dry skin on legs

Skin is the largest organ of our body and forms a protective layer called the epidermis. Healthy skin is covered by a fine film of moisture containing tiny droplets of lipids (fat).

This layer keeps the skin supple and protects the delicate soft tissues from pathogens and environmental influences. In some patients, the lipid moisture film is insufficiently formed and can result in dry flaky skin.

Patients experiencing this condition develop tiny cracks or sores which can act as entry points for pathogens and infections. In chronic cases, patients can develop rashes or eczema all over the body.

Causes Of Dry Skin

Dry skin is a direct result of a compromised hydro-lipid film (moisture protective film). Often a combination of innate risk factors and certain environmental factors can lead to patients developing dry skin. Some of the most commonly known factors include:

  • Innate deficiency in the sebum glands of the skin. Patients with this tendency formless fat due to the nature of their skin resulting in dry patches of skin.
  • Excessive sweating can wash away lipids and moisturising factors from the epidermis. The skin loses its protective film.
  • Frequent practice of washing with soap has a similar effect and can degrade the natural lipid film.
  • Intense dehydration.
  • Exposure to hot air for prolonged periods. Likewise, exposure to dry cold air during winters can have a similar effect.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Hormonal contraceptives, i.e. “the pill”
  • Perfumes, aerosols, detergents and household chemicals can also degrade the delicate hydro-lipid film.
  • Lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol and smoking have dehydrating effects on the body and can exacerbate the condition.
  • Certain diseases such as Diabetes, Neurodermatitis, hypothyroidism, allergies or diseases of the digestive tract can also impact the formation of the lipid film.

Dry skin is not just a cosmetic problem. It is a sign of an underlying condition and it is advisable to seek a medical opinion sooner rather than later.

Dry Skin Symptoms

Some of the most commonly known symptoms of the condition include:

  • Visible skin flakes that occur frequently on dry skin areas.
  • Compromised stratum corneum (the protective layer of horn-like scales of that guards the inner layers). Typically, with a healthy hydrolipid layer, the stratum corneum is hidden.
  • Missing hydrolipid film in areas of dry skin results in moisture evaporating from the skin. Eventually the skin loses its moisture balance and flakes begin to come lose in large numbers.
  • A white dry patch is a common occurrence.
  • Patients experience itching and tightness of the skin. In some cases, the skin might turn red and become irritated.
  • Skin regions with a lower number of sebaceous glands and a relatively poor blood supply are at particular risk of developing dry skin.
  • With poor blood supply, there is a short supply of nutrients available to build-up the hydrolipid film. As a result, the lower half of the body specifically the legs, knee and ankle region is particularly prone to this condition.

Treatment For Dry Skin

Treatment for dry skin is mostly conservative and involves very manageable practices patients can incorporate into their daily life. The focus is to provide enough moisture and avoid activities or practices that may lead to the depletion of the hydrolipid film.

  • Lifestyle Choices
    • Making a few changes in your lifestyle can have a positive effect on the prevalence of dry skin.
    • Avoiding consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other dehydrating agents can prove valuable to supporting prognosis.
    • Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help boost blood circulation and provide valuable nutrients in vulnerable parts of the body (like the legs).
  • Regular Skincare
    • It is highly advised that patients with a dry skin condition regularly moisturise their skin with non-scented hypoallergic creams.
    • Application of creams several times a day provides necessary moisturising factors and supports the skin in restoring its protective moisture film.

Compression Stockings For Moisturising Dry Skin

Bauerfeind VenoTrain black compression stockings

Medical compression stockings like the VenoTrain Cocoon can prove instrumental in supporting treatment for dry skin.

The VenoTrain cocoon is a new type of compression stocking offered by Bauerfeind, which provides the skin with necessary care substances.

The knitted fabric contains special fibres called the cocoon care threads, that contain lipid deposits. Upon direct contact with the skin, these lipids are released and continuously absorbed by the skin.

The upper layers of the skin regularly receive necessary building materials to keep the hydrolipid film intact and thus protect the skin from drying out.

The clinically tested lipid care complex keeps the skin supple and soothes. and eliminates the need for frequent application of cream on the legs. The skin is supplied with enough moisture and combats itching and irritation.

The stocking naturally nourishes the skin and the medical-grade compression helps boost blood circulation in the legs and naturally helps alleviate symptoms. The skin-friendly, breathable material makes it comfortable for everyday use and can help achieve the most effective prognosis.

Compression stockings

These are a special type of stocking which fits tightly around the leg and is designed to improve blood circulation. These stockings squeeze the muscles in the legs which help pump blood around the body.

They are also useful at easing any swelling, pain or discomfort, but, they are not a cure for varicose veins.

They take a little bit of time to get used to and can be uncomfortable in warm or hot weather. But many people find them helpful. 

Concept behind compression stockings

A compression stocking is designed so that it fits snugly around your ankle but is a looser fit further up your leg. The idea behind that is that it will force blood to flow up towards your heart.

There are different types of compression stockings and all of these help to alleviate the swelling, pain and heaviness caused by varicose veins.

However they do not stop new varicose veins from developing.

But what they are especially good at is reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is particularly useful for long distance travel, e.g. long haul flights.

What is a compression stocking made from?

These stockings are made from a tight, elastic style of material which is strong and durable. They are made in such a way that the pressure is graded in the stocking, starting with the most pressure in the foot through to the least amount of pressure at the knee or thigh.

Several types of compression stocking

There are different types of stockings which are available in a range of strengths, sizes, colour and styles. There are stockings which reach as far as your knee whereas others extend all the way up to your thigh.

Some stockings cover the whole of your foot but others leave your toes exposed.

One example of a compression stocking is a “size 2” stocking which is classed as a medium form of compression.

The type of stocking you wear will be decided by your GP or your pharmacist.

Compression stockings are not available on the NHS. You can buy them from a pharmacy or online.

How to wear compression stockings

It is a good idea to get into a routine when wearing these stockings. This means putting them on as soon as you get up in the morning and taking them off before you go to bed.

Elevate your legs when you have removed the stockings. This will ensure that blood will flow upwards towards your heart and keep your circulation functioning as normal.

Pull the stocking on over your leg and check that it fits correctly and that it compresses the parts of the leg it is designed to do. Do not roll the stocking down or allow it to do so as it will leave an impression on your leg which is also uncomfortable.

Wearing compression stockings for a long period of time will cause the skin on your legs to become dry and flaky. This can be avoided by applying a moisturising cream to your legs which will ensure that the skin remains smooth and hydrated.

If you find that they are causing dry skin, do not fit properly or are uncomfortable to wear then speak to your GP. You may need a pair of custom made stockings instead.

Looking after compression stockings

It is important to follow any instructions given about compression stockings and to care for them on a regular basis. This type of stocking will last up to 6 months and will need to be replaced after then.

If they become worn or damaged in any way during that time then ask your GP to prescribe you a new pair.

Your GP may prescribe you two pairs of stockings so that you always have one pair on and one in the wash. Wash your stockings by hand and dry them away from direct heat.

Unsuitable for compression stockings

Most people are able to wear compression stockings but there are a few people who for a variety of reasons are not advised to wear these.

They include diabetics, people with circulation problems and smokers.

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