There’s little doubt that the weather can affect your varicose veins. Vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency, is the underlying cause of varicose and spider veins.
Vein disease occurs when tiny one-way valves in the veins malfunction. Veins are responsible for circulating blood back to your heart, and when the vein valves are weakened or damaged, they cannot properly pump blood. This can cause blood to flow in the wrong direction and collect, creating the bulging appearance of varicose veins. Most commonly, the legs, ankles, and feet are affected because your veins have to work against gravity to pump blood back to your heart.
How Does Cold Weather Affect Varicose Veins?
During hot summer months, many individuals experience worsening venous symptoms like leg swelling and fatigue. This is because when the weather gets warm, a condition called venous distention can develop.
On the other hand, winter weather offers the potential for symptomatic relief to those suffering from vein disease. Colder weather can alleviate the effects of vein disease in a number of ways. For instance, lower temperatures can promote better blood circulation, shrink enlarged veins, and alleviate painful and uncomfortable symptoms.
If you’re not sure whether or not you’re experiencing symptoms of vein disease, take our quiz below to find out.
Do My Veins Show More in Colder Weather?
Do veins show more when cold? No, the opposite is usually true. Veins tend to shrink and become less noticeable during colder weather. However, less visible veins also depend on maintaining a healthy lifestyle year-round.
If you remain inactive and eat poorly when it’s cold outside, you may end up aggravating your symptoms. Even worse, you can develop additional health issues. Varicose veins put you at increased risk for developing blood clots in the deep veins, known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which can be life-threatening.
Preparing for Winter When You Have Varicose Veins
The unfortunate reality of cold weather and varicose veins is that any positive impact experienced is usually only temporary. This is because lifestyle choices can significantly impact your vein health. Plus, colder winter months have the potential to make your venous issues worse.
When it’s cold, dark, and wet outside, many of us tend to move less, eat more, and gain weight. Although it may be comforting to snuggle up with a warm blanket and a plate of cookies, this can be a problem for your veins.
Increased need for body heat prompts your circulatory system to work harder. Your muscles and blood vessels constrict in cold temperatures, requiring the heart to pump blood faster since more blood is needed to keep you warm. As a result, pressure is placed on the veins, which can increase the symptoms of varicose veins if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
You may also find that you have itchy legs when walking in cold weather. This may be caused by dry skin, or the itchiness may be from your varicose veins, but the discomfort can discourage you from being active.
With several food-centered holidays in the wintertime, your plate may tend to look heavier and less healthy. Many seek comfort food in heavy carbs to make them feel warmer. However, too much calorie intake with too little physical activity could lead to weight gain, which puts more pressure on your veins. Fortunately, there is a way to overcome these challenges by improving your blood circulation and staying active.
How to Improve Blood Circulation in Winter
Inactivity, a poor diet, and obesity can ultimately make your varicose vein symptoms even worse. They can also increase your risk of developing additional and potentially dangerous health conditions like venous ulcers and blood clots.
Proper circulation is necessary for your organs to function properly. Improving blood circulation can help you feel better because it moves deoxygenated blood back to the heart while also gathering waste products that come from cells in the body. It also helps your muscles to recover faster from exercise with less soreness afterward by providing important nutrients. It also absorbs more waste products, which can hinder muscle recovery.
Here are our recommendations for staying healthy to avoid the downsides of cold weather on your veins:
- Exercise regularly: We understand that seasonally shorter days and poor weather can make this a challenge. However, finding an outlet for physical activity on most days is key. You can find at-home workouts online, walk the stairs in your home or office, find a gym or community center with an indoor walking track, or invest in outdoor winter weather workout gear.
- Avoid prolonged sitting or standing: Many of us might become more sedentary in the winter when there’s not as much to do outside or leaving the house isn’t as comfortable due to weather conditions. Along with getting in your workouts, it is essential to move around throughout the day. If you’re going to get cozy and binge-watch your favorite show, make sure to take breaks to move around or stretch.
- Eat a healthy diet: We all know that this is the time of year when it can be challenging to stick to healthy eating habits. Some of us crave different foods (“comfort foods”) when it’s cold, and many plan to gather with friends and family for the holidays, usually involving lots of food. Enjoy holiday treats in moderation, swap out some ingredients for healthier substitutes in your recipes, and find healthy snacks to go with your hot cocoa by the fire.
- Wear compression socks: Compression socks can benefit those suffering disease symptoms like varicose veins by promoting circulation. They can also keep you warm! You should always consult with your doctor or a vein specialist before trying compression socks to see if they’re good for your condition.
- Decrease intake of caffeine: Caffeine can cause blood vessels to constrict and result in a decrease in circulation. To keep warm, instead, drink herbal teas that contain no caffeine.
- Keep legs uncrossed: A 2015 study found that sitting with crossed legs inhibited circulation to the legs more than just sitting in a chair
While these steps won’t cure or eliminate varicose veins, they can help you feel better during cold weather as you seek treatment for the underlying issue.
Schedule Varicose Vein Treatment with USA Vein Clinics
Unfortunately, varicose veins do not disappear on their own –– even during colder weather. There is no need to suffer from painful symptoms or to cover up unsightly veins with layers of clothing this winter. At USA Vein Clinics, our vein experts provide personalized care using state-of-the-art treatment options, including Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) and the VenaSeal™ Closure System. Our outpatient procedures can be performed in 30 minutes, depending on the number of veins needing treatment, and you can return to most daily activities the same day. To explore your full range of varicose vein treatment options, schedule online today, or give us a call at 888.768.3467.