Flying with varicose veins - what you need to know

Suffering from varicose veins can be a debilitating experience but should it also cost you, your chance for a holiday abroad?


Helen Cosgrove
@AVogelUK


11 August 2016

What you need to know

‘Should I fly if I suffer from varicose veins?’ is one of the most common queries that pops up in relation to the condition, particularly if you want to venture abroad during the long summer months. A lot of sufferers are put off going on holiday because they are concerned that flying will increase their chances of developing deep vein thrombosis  or a blood clot.

Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer one way or the other as there are noticeable risks that come with flying when you suffer from circulatory conditions. However, for some these risks may be minimal and there are certain steps that you can take to reduce your chances of developing further complications. 

The risks involved

Let us get the bad news out of the way first – flying can sometimes be daunting if you suffer from varicose veins, especially if you have factors that can increase this risk, including your weight, age and height. Most of these concerns are slight but you should be doing everything in your power to make your experience of flying as safe and risk-free as possible.

  • Immobilisation: If you suffer from varicose veins then you are probably already aware that you should not be inactive for a prolonged period of time. Therein lies one of the main problems associated with flying – depending on the length of your flight, you could be sitting inactive for hours. In a publication by the World Health Organisation, or WHO, immobilisation was identified as a greater risk factor than any cabin environment.1This is because when you are sedentary for a large length of time it can have a negative impact on your blood circulation, meaning that your blood will not flow properly, putting you at risk of developing a blood clot
  • Cabin pressure: When you fly in aeroplanes, the cabins are pressurised to ensure that you receive a steady supply of oxygen. However, this pressure is less than that experienced on the ground and means that your body is not absorbing as much oxygen as it usually would. This exacerbates any existing circulation problems, slowing down the flow of blood and increasing your chances of developing complications
  • Limited leg room: Leg space is a precious commodity on-board any aeroplane but unfortunately, unless you are willing to pay a bit extra, most airlines don’t provide much in the way of leg room. This can be uncomfortable enough but in sufferers of varicose veins it can contribute towards poor circulation and immobility as you are unable to stretch or move your legs properly, affecting your circulation and again raising the risk of more serious medical conditions like deep vein thrombosis
  • Stress: Statistically, according an old urban myth, you are more likely to be killed by a donkey than be involved in an aeroplane accident. There’s no knowing whether this is true but nevertheless, it hasn’t seemed to register with most flyers how insubstantial their fears really are and very few people seem to be handing out safety leaflets about donkeys. Flying can be an incredibly stressful experience – you are essentially being crammed into a tin can suspended thousands of feet above the ground and forced to sit next to complete strangers whilst enjoying whatever delights the airline deems edible. Even if you are not nervous flyer, you can still feel anxious about travelling with varicose veins. The unfortunate thing is that stress is unlikely to improve your condition and might even trigger an episode of varicose eczema 
  • Dehydration: The biggest cause of dehydration in air travel isn’t overindulging in complimentary champagne; it’s the low humidity present in the cabins. In ordinary situations, your indoor humidity levels vary between 30-65% - compare this to the humidity present in plane cabins, which is normally between 10-20%, and it’s easy to see why so many people become dehydrated whilst travelling.This can weaken your immune system, putting you at risk of developing an infection and it can worsen your varicose veins as it could potentially slow down your blood flow.

1http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/wright_project/phase1_report/WRIGHT%20REPORT.pdf

2 http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-travel/air-travel-and-dehydration.aspx

Things you can do to help

On to the good news now – there are ways of reducing your risk of developing complications like dehydration and blood clots. These helpful tips should allow you have a safe flight and to cope with your varicose veins whilst on-board an aeroplane.

  • Wear compression stockings: Compression stockings are available in most pharmacies and retailers and work by gently applying pressure to your legs, stimulating the flow of blood and improving your circulation. You can even purchase specialised ‘flight socks’ which are specifically designed to reduce your risk of developing deep veined thrombosis during flights
  • Wear comfortable clothing: If you plan on flying with varicose veins then wearing a pair of tight skinny jeans is probably not a sensible option. Nothing you choose to put on should be restricting your blood flow in any way so try to stick with loose, comfortable clothes that enable your body to breathe and don’t put any pressure on your legs or feet
  • Do leg exercises: If you suffer from varicose veins then you should consider paying a little more for seats with added leg room. Not only will then prevent you from being uncomfortably crammed in to a corner, it will enable you to practise a few simple leg exercises to promote blood circulation and prevent complications like blood clots and deep veined thrombosis   
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Throughout your flight, make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids in order to avoid dehydration. This will keep your immune system nourished and may even improve your blood circulation, preventing a clot from forming and helping you to feel more refreshed and invigorated
  • Relax: This is very important to remember, even if you are not a nervous flying. Try to keep yourself calm by either reading a good book or practicing a few simple breathing exercises. Ignore the urge to take sleep tablets as these will only increase your susceptibility to immobility. If you must take some form of stress relief, try our AvenaCalm tincture. This remedy is completely natural and should enable you to feel calm and in control during your flight
  • Use horse chestnut: Venaforce is our herbal remedy specifically aimed at the treatment of varicose veins. Made using fresh extracts of horse chestnut, this solution helps to provide relief from some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins, such as cramping and swelling and can be taken by adults over the age of 18, providing they are not allergic to peanuts or soy, pregnant, breastfeeding or suffer from varicose leg ulcers.

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