Over 40 million people in the United States have varicose veins, making it one of the most common medical conditions. While some people may not experience any symptoms, others may struggle with chronic pain, negatively impacting their daily lives.
Varicose veins are usually associated with twisted or bulging veins, most often found on your legs. Many people are unaware that they are caused by an underlying condition known as venous insufficiency or vein disease.
Traveling with varicose veins can be stressful. They can be painful and increase your risk of developing dangerous blood clots. Blood clots tend to develop while traveling as a result of poor circulation from sitting for hours. “If you have varicose veins, it’s important to be mindful of any potential risks and to understand what steps to take to prevent blood clots while traveling,” says Yan Katsnelson, M.D.
With many people planning to travel for the upcoming holidays, your health and safety should always take a front seat. Our vein specialists always put patients first and will take the time to answer all your questions about how to take care of your vein health while traveling.
Varicose Veins Increase Your Risk of Blood Clots When Traveling
Your risk of blood clots increases when you travel, especially if you are sitting or standing still for an extended amount of time. Unfortunately, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can occur if a blood clot develops in one of the body’s deep veins. Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together. It is often referred to as a “silent condition” because some people may experience no symptoms, or they may feel leg pain, swelling, discoloration, cramping, or warmth in the affected area.
The longer you are immobile, the greater your risk of blood clots developing into DVT. A clot will often dissolve on its own; however, it can become life-threatening if the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, causing a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).
If you are concerned about driving or flying with varicose veins, use these helpful tips from our expert vein specialists during your trip.
HOW TO AVOID BLOOD CLOTS WHEN FLYING
- Wear compression stockings: This can help improve blood flow during your flight.
- Move around to prevent blood clots: Flex your feet and roll ankles to help engage your muscles that pump blood throughout your legs.
- Drink water: Staying hydrated keeps vein walls from narrowing and regulates blood pressure.
- Elevate: When you elevate your legs, it becomes easier for them to pump blood, putting less pressure on your veins successfully.
- Ask your doctor: If you are predisposed to blood clots or recently had vein treatment, make sure your doctor knows that you are planning a trip and how long your flight will be. They can recommend when it will be safe for you to fly.
- Stretch to avoid blood clots: Get up and stand or stretch every hour to promote healthy blood flow and reduce swelling.
- Avoid alcohol: Skip the sugary drinks and alcohol. They can cause blood vessels to constrict.
- Go for a walk: This is an excellent tip for varicose veins and flying. Get up and walk around if you’re sitting at the gate with some time on your hands. Sitting for too long stalls circulation.
HOW TO AVOID BLOOD CLOTS WHILE DRIVING
- Do some sightseeing: Break up the long drive with a little exercise. Plan to stop every few hours to go on a short hike, play Frisbee at a rest stop, or even take the stairs at a shopping center to encourage circulation, as well as reduce blood clot risks.
- Change your position to avoid blood clots: With varicose veins and driving, the risk comes from sitting in one position. Change your posture, your sitting position, and even your seat altogether periodically throughout the drive.
- Stretch: Roll your ankles, flex your feet, wiggle your toes, and extend your legs to promote healthy circulation.
- Recline and elevate: Recline your passenger seat and elevate your legs on and off for 15 minutes every hour.
- Watch your diet: Be careful of indulging in fast food. It’s easy to want to rely on drive-throughs, but eating foods high in sodium, fat, and cholesterol can cause blood to thicken.
- Keep cool: Hot weather can cause leg pain and other vein symptoms to worsen. Keep cool and remember to drink water. Wear light clothing, blast the A/C, or roll down the windows.
- Know your risks: If you are predisposed or have a family history of blood clots, talk to a vein specialist before your trip to avoid blood clots.
Treating Venous Insufficiency to Help Prevent Blood Clots
Though these tips can help prevent blood clots while traveling, the underlying cause of clots will not be fixed. USA Vein Clinics provides effective, minimally invasive vein treatment to eliminate painful symptoms and reduce your risk of developing DVT. To determine how we can help you or to find out more about our treatment options, schedule an appointment online or give us a call at 888.768.3467.
Medically Reviewed by:
Dr. Yan Katsnelson, M.D.
Dr. Yan Katsnelson is the founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics. Dr. Katsnelson is a highly skilled cardiac surgeon who completed a fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard School of Medicine, in Boston, MA. His clinical area of expertise includes minimally invasive procedures to treat vein and vascular diseases. Dr. Katsnelson has established himself as a strong advocate for accessible, affordable, and compassionate healthcare services. He spoke about the potential impact of COVID-19 on blood clots and vein health in a recent publication.