Varicose veins are a common condition that usually affect older people and present as enlarged, gnarled veins in the legs and feet. While they are benign in most people, in some it can lead to aches and discomfort, more so during prolonged sitting or standing.
Varicose veins occur when the veins have weaker valves or damaged walls. In ideal conditions, the veins’ one-way valves keep the blood moving towards the heart, but in those with damaged varicose veins, the blood may start to pool or even flow backwards. This can be caused by diverse factors such as pregnancy, obesity, old age, genetics or in those who stand or sit over long periods of time. When people with varicose veins travel, their symptoms can worsen. However, there are a number of things that can be done to manage them better. Here’s a look at some tips:
Frequent movement – Since prolonged standing or sitting can exacerbate the symptoms of varicose veins, people with this issue should keep moving around frequently. This becomes more important when travelling. If you are on a plane, opt for an aisle seat so you can get up every hour or so to walk around the cabin. When driving, you could take frequent breaks to stretch out your legs too. Movement keeps the blood moving around and prevents swelling in the legs/feet.
Compression socks/stockings – These are designed to improve the blood circulation in your legs and reduce swellings in the leg/ankle/feet areas. Compression socks or stockings create pressure on the veins in the legs, thus preventing blood from pooling, and pushing it back towards the heart instead. Compression stockings help in alleviating symptoms of swelling, pain and discomfort. However, do ensure you wear the right size of compression stockings – your doctor can help you determine the right type and size.
Elevation – Another easy way to reduce discomfort caused by varicose veins when travelling, is by elevating your legs above your heart level. When travelling in a car, try to prop up your feet on a footrest or cushion to reduce swelling and boost blood flow towards the heart. When on a long flight, you could always find something to elevate your legs and prevent swelling and discomfort.
Hydration – Staying hydrated on long flights is important to prevent formation of blood clots – these can turn out to become a serious complication in those with varicose veins. So, when travelling, make sure you drink sufficient water and stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol, as they can contribute towards dehydration.
Exercise – Engaging in regular exercise not only strengthens the leg muscles of those with varicose veins, but also helps to improve flow. If you are planning on travelling, try to squeeze in some leg exercises such as stretching or walking. Ankle circles or calf raises are some other exercises to do while sitting.
Loose attire – Avoid wearing tight clothing as it can restrict blood flow and further aggravate the symptoms of varicose veins. It’s always better to opt for loose clothing when travelling.
Medication – And when nothing else works out, and you are having severe symptoms, do consider taking the medications your doctor has prescribed for your varicose veins. These could include painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or blood thinners.
Don’t let your varicose veins spoil your travels. To prevent the discomfort of pains and swellings, make the extra effort and follow the above-mentioned tips for better management of varicose veins while travelling. Take the time out and talk to your doctor for more advice so you enjoy your journey and arrive at your destination hale and healthy!