Diabetes and compression

If, as a diabetic patient, you experience swelling in the feet, ankles, and leg, specially designed compression wear can relieve these symptoms.

Person in blue jeans and snkeakers descending a stair

In patients with diabetes, circulation problems can lead to swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs

If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, you've most certainly been working closely with your physician, diabetes educator, and pharmacist on how to best care for your health, maybe with extra emphasis on your legs and feet.

By now, you’ve probably been told by your physician, diabetes educator, and pharmacist, that circulation problems could lead to swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs (known as peripheral oedema), that you should inspect your feet and legs regularly, and that you may even need to wear special shoes and socks specifically designed for people with diabetes.

What are the causes of peripheral oedema?

There are many causes of peripheral oedema, making it difficult to isolate a single reason for its onset. You might have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and/or kidney failure in addition to your diabetes. Both diseases are known to cause peripheral edema too.

Many medications you are taking to treat your diabetes, are also known to cause oedema.

Compression wear can help

Diabetic compression stockings can help to reduce oedema, keeping legs and feet healthier. Peripheral oedema is normally caused by a condition known as venous insufficiency. Graduated compression socks and hosiery have been proven to effectively promote venous blood flow by providing a gentle graduated pressure to leg veins and valves, reducing peripheral oedema.

Wearing graduated compression socks and hosiery can help reduce and maintain oedema in patients with venous insufficiency. Most people with diabetes will benefit from less swelling when wearing compression socks.

Contraindication: arterial insufficiency

There are certain conditions where people with diabetes should not wear compression. If you have been diagnosed with severe arterial insufficiency, a diabetic compression sock may not be the right treatment for you.

Ask your doctor if you are uncertain if you suffer from arterial insufficiency and if you are unsure if wearing diabetic stockings would be safe in your case.

Your doctor will conduct the appropriate examinations to determine if compression is a safe treatment option for you.

If you should notice any discomfort while wearing a diabetic compression stocking, remove it immediately and inform your doctor.

Did you know that people with diabetes have a higher risk of DVT?

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a blood clot in the deep veins, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

DVT is a serious event. If the blood clot breaks loose, it can travel into the lungs causing pulmonary embolism (PE). PE is a potentially fatal condition, the symptoms of which resemble a heart attack (shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid pulse).

If DVT is not properly treated, it can develop into a long-term condition known as post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). PTS leads to skin changes, ulcers, and other painful symptoms that greatly affect your quality of life.

Both complications, PE and PTS, can be avoided if DVT is prevented in the first place. Research supports the use of graduated compression stockings to help prevent the development of DVT. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing graduated compression socks to help prevent DVT.

Talk with your doctor regarding this potential risk and what else you can do to reduce it.

Further reading