If you suffer from varicose veins, you may be well-versed on how weather can affect them. In the summer, the heat can cause blood to pool in your veins, as well as increase swelling around the varicose veins. In the winter, cold weather can be beneficial to your veins, because the lower temperatures keep the veins smaller, allowing them to work better and reduce the pressure, cramps or pain that come with varicose veins. However, there are also downsides to cold weather, and as Jack Frost begins to nip at your nose, it’s time to learn some tips to keep your legs healthy during the wintery months ahead.
Tips For Winter Vein Care
If you are one of nearly half of all Americans who suffer from varicose veins (also known as venous insufficiency), you may struggle with a variety of painful and sometimes even debilitating symptoms associated with this condition. Besides lowering your motivation to do anything other than snuggle up with hot tea and a holiday movie marathon, the freezing weather can have physical effects as well. Colder weather brings lower atmospheric pressure, which in turn impedes circulation, weakening your veins and reducing their efficiency. And just as the flow of nearly any liquid will slow under the right circumstances, your body and its systems will do the same.
- Healthy eating – During the winter months, it’s instinctual to gravitate away from lighter food options like salad, and more towards higher-calorie comfort foods like meat and potatoes. Add to that the near-constant barrage of sweet treats and holiday parties full of rich foods, and weight gain is a common occurrence. Besides being frustrating for your waistline, added weight causes more stress on your circulatory system. More weight equals more pressure on your legs, making it harder for the veins to push blood back up to your heart. Sugary foods increase inflammation in all of your tissues, including your veins, while the perfect storm of too much salt, too many alcoholic drinks and not enough water can leave you with swelling and discomfort. While avoiding all of the tempting treats of the season may be too much to ask, if you indulge in moderation and balance your diet with fiber-rich foods to assist with circulation, your veins will thank you.
- Move, move, move – When the sun is shining and the weather is warm, it’s easy to spend hours outside. Whether gardening, going for a walk or hiking and enjoying the great outdoors, you are more inclined to lead a more active lifestyle during the summer. However, when the skies turn gray and the temperature drops, the desire to venture outdoors for pretty much any reason becomes more difficult. The problem with that is that a sedentary lifestyle impedes circulation and allows blood to pool more easily, worsening varicose veins and the accompanying symptoms. If you want to stay inside, be sure to remain active – this will help your blood continue to pump efficiently through your veins. One of the worst enemies of varicose veins is inactivity – resist the urge to hunker down and hibernate. Instead, make sure that if you have a job where you sit or stand for long periods of time, you take frequent breaks to walk around and get your blood flowing. Do some form of exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, whether you brave the inclement weather or sweat it out inside.
- Compression stockings – Because varicose veins are caused by insufficient vein function, anything you can do to help them perform to the best of their ability can be beneficial. Designed to increase blood flow from the legs to the heart, compression stockings are medical grade stockings that strategically place graduated pressure on your legs to assist insufficient vein function. By putting the strongest compression at the ankles and gradually decreasing pressure as the stockings extend up the leg, compression stockings help to alleviate symptoms prior to treatment, and enhance results and recovery after treatment. Compression stockings can be purchased at pharmacies; however, it is worth getting fitted by an experienced vein doctor like Dr. Fisher to ensure that you’re getting the most benefit from your stockings.
- Pamper Your Legs – Symptoms of varicose veins often cause pain and discomfort in your legs, as well as unsightly dry skin on the outside. To lessen these symptoms, take the time to pamper your legs, including:
- Moisturizing – cold weather and dry air in the winter already dehydrate and irritate your skin, and the skin surrounding varicose veins are further aggravated because of decreased circulation in the area. Regular moisturizing can help improve the appearance of dry skin, as well as reducing itchiness and overall dryness.
- Elevating your feet – because blood in your veins has to fight gravity to do its job properly, elevating your legs whenever you can will help the blood flow more easily to its destination, as well as reduce pain and swelling. Make a point of relaxing and putting your feet up a few times every day, especially before bed. If it is comfortable for you, place pillows under your legs and feet while you sleep to continue to benefit blood flow.
- Icing your legs – this may seem like the last thing you want to do during frigid winter months, but if you have painful swelling, redness or discomfort from varicose veins, a cold pack can help. Wrap the ice pack in a towel or other cloth to protect your skin, and apply to the affected area for about 15 minutes at a time.
Other ways you can pamper your legs include gently massaging them and stretching a couple of times a day, both of which will stimulate circulation.
- Seek Treatment – While all of the above tips can assist in reducing inconvenient and uncomfortable symptoms stemming from varicose veins, the only way to completely eliminate the veins and the associated issues is by seeking treatment. At Desert Aesthetic and Vein Centre, we offer a variety of minimally invasive procedures designed to treat any type of venous insufficiency you may be dealing with. To schedule an appointment for a comprehensive vein evaluation and treatment, call our office today at 760-344-1101.