Heat aggravates the symptoms of varicose veins, but there are ways to keep comfortable even as temperatures rise.
As temperatures rise in the summer months, symptoms of varicose veins often increase, too. If you suffer from varicose veins, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the pain, swelling, and throbbing caused by the bulging veins in your legs or feet in the summertime.
There’s a reason for this phenomenon: while heat doesn’t cause varicose veins, it may aggravate the discomfort varicose vein patients already deal with on a daily basis. This occurs due to the way our circulatory system combats the effects of excessively high temperatures.
Why Heat is Bad for Varicose Veins
Heat exacerbates the underlying cause of varicose veins, which is a malfunction in the one-way valves in our leg veins. These valves are responsible for pumping blood back to the heart from the extremities. Yet valves sometimes become weak due to a variety of risk factors, such as sitting or standing for long periods, obesity, heredity, and pregnancy.
When weakened valves cannot push the blood upward to the chest, the vein walls become strained from having to contain this backflow of blood. This leads to the classic signs of varicose veins — twisted ropes of blue or purple veins emerging along the legs or feet.
During the summer, this pooling of blood in the veins is heightened by heat. To cool down, our blood vessels widen and force fluids — in the form of sweat — to the skin’s surface. Veins with healthy valves are able to accommodate this extra influx of blood. Veins with damaged valves cannot, which intensifies the swelling and achiness of varicose veins.
Taking the Heat Off Varicose Veins
Varicose vein patients don’t have to be uncomfortable during the summer months. Taking these five precautions will minimize pain and swelling and allow you to enjoy the warmer weather.
- Hydrate. Dehydration causes muscle cramps and leg swelling, so be sure to drink plenty of water to keep the veins functioning properly. Also, avoid alcoholic drinks that could lead to dehydration.
- Stay out of the Midday Sun. Staying active and exercising is a great way to reduce the symptoms of varicose veins. However, during the summer, schedule your outdoor workouts for when temperatures dip. Exercising when the sun and heat are strongest will irritate varicose veins. If you do exercise outdoors, try swimming or simply walking in water. These activities not only cool you down, but promote good circulation by working the calf muscles as well.
- Cool Down. If you do bask in the sun, douse a towel in cold water and spread it over your legs. Shower or bathe in cooler water to shrink blood vessels and reduce swelling. And whenever possible, stay in air-conditioned places.
- Elevate Legs. To encourage blood flow from the legs to the heart, prop up your legs on a pillow at least three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes. This eases the swelling and heaviness that’s often associated with varicose veins.
- Wear Compression Stockings. To give an extra push to sluggish vein valves, put on a pair of compression stockings. If you feel hot with them on, sprinkle the stockings with cold water. Drugstores or medical supply stores carry these super-elastic garments if you don’t already own a pair.
Healing Varicose Veins
At the Desert Vein Institute, our specialists see many patients whose varicose vein symptoms worsen in the heat. We offer advice on ways to reduce the swelling and pain of varicose veins. In addition, our services include several minimally invasive outpatient surgeries that permanently rid you of varicose veins. Contact us today for a consultation so you can enjoy your summer free of the discomfort of varicose veins.