Having those gnarled, purple, painful stretches on your legs can be very painful. It can have effects on your choices: one of which is prohibiting long-distance flights.
Being stationary – whether you’re sitting or standing – for long periods can make varicose veins worse.
Based on this knowledge, traveling long distances – on land or air – with a varicose vein is bad.
But hang on a minute:
Does that mean you can’t travel even if it’s absolutely necessary?
I’ll answer that pretty soon but first, let’s know what the risks are.
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Long haul flights and varicose veins: The risks
Fair enough, it’s ill-advised to make long-haul flights with varicose veins. Research shows that it can worsen by remaining immobile for long periods.
Additionally, things can go from 1 to 1000 really fast. Although surface clots are common with varicose veins, they are not as dangerous as DVT (deep vein thrombosis).
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): The silent danger.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms deep in the vein.
It is a common risk for those with varicose veins. According to a recent study, the risk of DVT increases (a little) after a long-distance journey due to immobility.
When such a clot forms, it can travel to the lungs or heart via the circulatory system. Hence, these organs are deprived of oxygen. If there is no prompt medical attention, it can lead to death.
For this reason, it’s important to begin treatment immediately after diagnosis is made.
I tell you what though, there are little actions you can take when you really need to get on the plane for a long journey.
Read on to find out.
Precautions for traveling with varicose veins
You can still get on that flight for vacation at the best resorts, view picturesque landscapes, enjoy breakfast by the beach, or visit friends.
Even with varicose veins? Oh yeah!
By taking simple precautions.
The main goal is to either manage the existing varicose veins or prevent new ones from forming.
So, let’s get down to business. What are these precautions?
Avoid sitting for long periods
When you sit for long periods, it becomes difficult for blood to flow from your leg due to gravity and the malfunctioning valves of the veins in your legs.
But you can do this:
After sitting for a while, stand a bit and take a little walk up and down the aisle.
It’s better you get an aisle sit to avoid discomforting your neighbor and create more room to stretch your legs.
Do little leg exercises
These exercises are meant to reduce venous pressure in your legs and aid blood flow towards the heart. They include:
- Stretch your ankles to improve blood circulation
- Lay your feet flat on the ground, and stand slowly till your calf muscles are stretched.
- Massage your calves and ankles periodically with a varikosette. It will reduce swellings and discomfort
- Massage your feet and move up gently towards your thighs. Repeat this for both legs.
- Wiggle your toes a bit
Travel in compression stockings
Varicose veins form in the legs when the valves of the veins that direct blood flows towards the heart, are weak or damaged. Therefore the blood pools around the veins in the legs.
Compression stockings or socks are special types of clothing, with stronger elastic than traditional stockings or socks. They apply pressure mildly, on the superficial veins and arteries which forces the valves into their proper position.
Hence, the blood is able to flow normally to the heart without obstruction.
Compression socks or stockings are graded on different levels: mild, moderate, firm, and extra firm compression. Before you purchase any of them, consult your doctor to perform a proper diagnosis of the severity of your condition.
Based on his diagnosis, he would advise you on the grade of compression socks or stockings to go for.
Being hydrated has huge benefits to the body: it cleanses the body, aids excretion, and so on.
But how does it aid with varicose veins?
Look at it this way:
Drinking water helps to keep the blood’s viscosity low. If the viscosity is high, then the possibility of the formation of blood clots increases considerably.
Furthermore, water helps to regulate the body’s temperature. The moment the temperature gets hot, blood vessels constrict and the restricted blood flow can cause clots to form.
You should take little sips of water intermittently and steer clear of dehydrating beverages such as coffee, alcohol, soda, tea, and so on.
Don’t sit with your legs crossed.
Sitting with crossed legs limits the natural flow of blood from the legs to the heart. Hence, blood clots are likely to form.
For what it’s worth, unlearning this habit could be really hard. It’s a reflex action that we – sometimes – do unconsciously.
You can get rid of it from your workplace by writing a little note and pasting it at an overt location. That way, you can unlearn it progressively.
Opt for comfortable clothing and loose footwear
Tight clothing limits blood flow in the legs and waist area. Traveling in body-hugging pants or tights is likely not a good choice if you have varicose veins. Rather, wear loose, comfortable clothing that wouldn’t limit blood flow.
In the same vein, tight shoes are a no no. Wear loose shoes with soft soles and low heels (the closer the leg is to the ground, the better the blood flow).
Prop up your legs to elevate them
When you elevate your legs a bit, the pressure of gravity is reduced. You can place your leg on a pillow to prop it up a bit.
Similarly, you can lie on the floor and raise your legs above your head. To be fair, this might not be possible on the plane. If that’s the case, you could do it immediately you land at your destination.
Keep sleeping pills away
Sometimes, you might need to take a pill to sleep on the plane.
But here’s the rub:
When you fall asleep, you’re less likely to do the little exercises and actions that can help with your vein’s health.
But it’s okay to sleep unassisted. That way, you’ll be able to wake up intermittently to do the exercises I’ve outlined in this article.
Take deep breaths
Taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths aids blood flow to the heart.
You should do this consciously at different times on your trip.
It’s important to begin treatment early. The moment you see these symptoms, consult your doctor:
- Dark purple or blue veins
- Bulgy, twisted veins
- Pains in the legs
- Heightened pain after a long period of immobility
- Discoloration of the skin surrounding the varicose vein.
After due consultations, the doctor will advise you on the next line of action to take.
If your case is serious, the doctor may advise you to go for non-invasive or less invasive medical procedures.
Traveling after a varicose vein medical procedure
After a medical procedure to remove vascular veins, it’s advisable to put all travels on hold for 3-4 weeks (for long-haul flights) or 2 weeks (for short flights less than two hours).
A long journey immediately after such medical procedures, can expose you to DVT. And you’ll need to attend an essential scheduled check-up, after 2 to 3 weeks.
To sum it all up, you can travel with a varicose vein if you take all the necessary precautions. However, a vascular doctor must be consulted before you make the journey.