Travel Can Pose Health Hazards for Those With Varicose Veins

Medical Vein Clinic offers tips and free compression stockings to alleviate risk of developing blood clots during road and plane trips

It’s estimated that 20% of the population (and as high as 26% of Hispanics) have varicose veins—those raised purple bumpy veins in the legs. While people are often concerned about how they look, there is a more important reason to take care of your legs. A recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine found that people with varicose veins are five times more likely to develop blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be fatal.

Varicose veins occur when the valves on blood veins stop working and cannot return the blood to the heart for oxygen. When this happens, the blood pools in the veins causing bulging, discoloration and tired, achy legs. “For those with varicose veins who are traveling, it’s important not to sit still for long periods of time as that increases the risk of blood clots forming,“ shared John Hogg, MD, founder of Medical Vein Clinic of San Antonio. “Here are some ways to help your summer journeys stay healthy.”

• For car or plane trips, wear compression stockings that reach to your knees or up to your torso.

• Make sure you have the right fit of compression stocking to do their job of returning blood to your heart. The best type are gradient stockings: stronger at the ankles with less pressure further up the leg to allow blood to flow back up to the heart. Everyone’s legs are different lengths and sizes and it’s important to get fitted. Medical Vein Clinic offers free compression stockings and fittings this summer. Call 210-622-8000 to set up an appointment.

• Don’t ever roll or double stockings as that will create a tourniquet effect and be more harmful than helpful.

• If traveling in a car, take a break every hour and walk around a bit. If you can’t stop, be sure to move your legs around and pump them like an old-fashioned water pump.

• Stay hydrated while traveling, especially in the summer when you can get dehydrated. Dehydration makes the blood thicker and there’s not as much of it, so it’s more likely to form clots.

• When you get to your destination, take 20 minutes, lie flat on your back and put your feet up above your heart, like leaning them against a wall. This allows the blood that has pooled in your legs to run back up to your heart.

• If your destination includes a pool, take a dip. Standing up or walking in a pool with its water pressure is like wearing a cooling pair of compression stockings. It’s a relaxing way to relieve pressure in your legs.

• Do not soak in hot tubs or hot water as that makes your veins swell and the problem worse.

• Monitor your legs to ensure they are healthy and free of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis, DVT.

“DVT is a serious condition that requires quick medical attention,” noted Dr. Hogg. “And, unfortunately, we see it frequently at the clinic. Signs of DVT include leg swelling—particularly if one leg and not the other is swollen–and what feels like a hard rope inside your leg, often accompanied by redness. If you have those symptoms and experience any dizziness or shortness of breath, get to your doctor or ER immediately. Those are indications of a blood clot, that can then move to the lungs and potentially be life threatening.”