Staying seated for long periods of time while traveling can be uncomfortable for everyone, but if you have varicose veins, it could also involve some big health risks.
“In general, having varicose veins is associated with an increased risk of a potentially serious type of blood clot known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT),” explains Vascular Surgical Associates physician Dr. Jeffery Winter. But the long periods of immobility required for traveling can increase your risk of DVT even more. “This means,” he concludes, “that people with varicose veins who travel must take extra precautions to lower their risk.”
Fortunately, DVT is highly preventable when you follow these guidelines.
Safe Travel Tips for People with Varicose Veins
1. Get Up & Move
Moving often is important to preventing blood stasis, which can lead to clotting. If you’re traveling by plane, the CDC advises getting up and walking about the cabin every two to three hours. You’ll want to do the same if you’re traveling by car, so be sure to stop somewhere safe, such as a rest area.
It’s also beneficial to continue moving, even while you’re seated. Every so often, keep your leg muscles active by doing some simple movements. For example: raising and lowering your heels several times while keeping your toes on the floor, then doing the same for the front of your foot by lifting your toes while keeping your heels grounded. Tightening and relaxing your leg muscles several times, or twirling your ankles while holding your feet off the ground can also help.
Since it’s important to avoid being completely immobile for a long period of time, consider the length of your flight — and how much you might want to sleep during it. Sleeping in an upright position on a plane, or as a passenger in the car, isn’t the same as sleeping in bed. This is because sitting with bent knees creates pressure on the popliteal vein, and increases your risk of DVT. Avoid taking sleeping pills when you travel, and either stay awake for the duration or take shorter naps that will still allow for movement breaks.
2. Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks or stockings are tight-fitting garments that add pressure to the legs and ankles. Combined with keeping your legs moving regularly, the compression provided can help circulate your blood and prevent clotting. Since there are many styles and compression levels available, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the best pair for you.
3. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can increase your risk for clotting at any time, because it causes the blood to become concentrated and sluggish. When traveling in an airplane, low levels of both oxygen and humidity can increase your dehydration even more. The effect is worse when you add alcohol to the mix, so save the cocktails for when you land and instead choose water to replenish moisture. (Better yet, pack an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill it up at the gate before you board.) If you’re driving, be sure to pack plenty of water for the trip.
Wherever you’re headed, our award-winning specialists are here to support your vein health. Vascular Surgical Associates offers a range of surgical and non-surgical treatments, as well as a state-of-the-art vascular lab. To request an appointment, call (770) 423-0595, or connect with us online.