Flying Safely and Comfortably with Varicose Veins
Fly safely and comfortably with varicose veins with these practical tips, expert advice, and in-flight strategies to minimize discomfort and promote circulation, ensuring a smooth and worry-free travel experience for individuals with varicose veins.
Are You Flying with Varicose Veins?
If you have varicose veins, they’re pretty common. About 20% of adults will be diagnosed with varicose veins every year. These enlarged and twisted veins commonly appear on the legs and feet. They can be seen through the skin as bulging, bluish-purple cords. They occur when the veins become damaged or weakened, causing blood to pool or accumulate in the affected area.
Where does this condition come from? The veins in our legs have valves that prevent blood from flowing backward, allowing it to flow towards the heart. When these valves become weak or damaged, they fail to function correctly. This results in the backward flow of blood and an increased pressure buildup within the veins. Consequently, the veins stretch and bulge, leading to the development of varicose veins. This is a common issue for people as they age, but there are ways to live with them, as well as treatments for people with more advanced vein damage.
People with varicose veins can experience symptoms and complications when traveling by plane. Sitting for long hours can impede blood circulation, contributing to or exacerbating varicose veins. A blood clot in a varicose vein can lead to serious complications like deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
People who have more severe varicose veins or a history of blood clotting disorders may have an increased risk of complications during long flights. If you suffer from varicose veins, speaking with a doctor before you book your next flight is essential.
Pre-Travel Preparations with Varicose Veins
People with varicose veins should talk to their doctor or varicose veins specialist before flying. Long flights are known to exacerbate the symptoms of varicose veins. You may experience pain, swelling, and discomfort if you’re on a multi-hour flight. However, there are ways to minimize your pain.
During a consultation, a varicose veins specialist will assess the severity of varicose veins and talk to you about your symptoms. This may involve a physical examination, including observing the affected areas. They may also feel for bulging veins and check the skin for changes like discoloration or ulcers. The severity of varicose veins is categorized into different classes based on the classification system of the CEAP (Clinical, Etiology, Anatomy, and Pathophysiology). Classifying the severity of your disease helps determine the best treatment options for each individual. A vascular ultrasound can reveal varicose veins and help doctors decide on the appropriate treatment protocol. Find out more about the six stages of varicose veins.
In mild cases, lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, weight management, wearing compression stockings, and elevation of the legs are usually recommended. These measures help improve blood circulation, reduce swelling, and alleviate symptoms. Your doctor may also advise avoiding prolonged sitting or standing during flights. This means you should walk and stretch regularly to enhance blood flow. If you have the option, consider taking more than one plane rather than a direct flight. Layover in an airport will give you time to stretch your legs. You should also wear compression stockings.
For some people, compression stockings may not be enough. More severe cases of varicose veins usually require additional treatment options, including surgery.
Choosing a Compression Stocking
Compression stockings are not just ordinary socks; they offer various health benefits for our legs and overall well-being. One of the key benefits of wearing compression stockings is their ability to alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins. Varicose veins can lead to pain, swelling, and discomfort in our legs. Compression socks help by squeezing the legs gently, improving blood flow, and reducing blood pooling. This helps to relieve pain and swelling and prevent the progression of varicose veins.
Compression socks can also benefit people by relieving high blood pressure. Wearing compression socks can help reduce the strain on our blood vessels. Choosing the right compression level is crucial to maximize the benefits of these socks. Work with your varicose veins specialist to determine the appropriate compression level for your situation.
Stockings are available in different compression levels, ranging from mild to moderate to firm:
- Mild compression, which ranges from 8-15 mmHg, is often used for prevention. It’s also usually prescribed for individuals sitting or standing for long periods.
- A moderate compression, between 15-20 mmHg, is commonly recommended for people with mild swelling, varicose veins, or pregnancy-related discomfort.
- Firm compression, around 20-30 mmHg, is generally used for more severe varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, or post-surgery recovery cases.
Your doctor will help you decide the best compression level based on your symptoms. Some brands of stocking makers have unique designs and colors.
Tips for Comfortable Travel
You may be wondering how to travel if you live with varicose veins. Several tricks can prevent your vein issues from getting worse. Here are some essential tips for comfortable travel:
- Drink water. Staying hydrated and minimizing water retention is essential when flying with varicose veins. Keeping yourself hydrated can ensure better blood circulation and reduce the risk of blood pooling in these weakened veins. Drinking plenty of water helps thin the blood, promoting healthy circulation and preventing the formation of blood clots.
- Do leg stretches. Even light movement, such as getting up and walking back and forth in the aisles, can help improve circulation on flights. Use seated exercises, such as ankle circles, knee lifts, leg pumps, and seated stretches, to promote circulation and relaxation.
- Eat and drink mindfully. Avoid drinking too much water on long flights, as it can worsen the swelling and discomfort caused by varicose veins. Avoid salty foods and sugary drinks, which stimulate excess thirst. Don’t drink alcohol.
- Choose the aisle seat. People in the aisle seat are forced to get up when a seatmate needs to go to the restroom. You’ll naturally be able to take small stretch breaks without drawing attention to yourself. You can also get up for a quick stretch when the seatbelt lights are off.
Packing Essentials for Varicose Veins Management
Make sure to bring extra compression stockings on your trip when you fly. Ideally, you should own a pair for each day or launder them to wear them daily. Comfortable footwear that is not too tight and offers support is important for people of all ages with varicose veins.
Bring along an elevation or support pillow for your downtime. If you can bring it in your carry-on, you can elevate your legs between flights. Otherwise, plan for self-care daily at your hotel. You can elevate your legs at the beginning and end of the day.
Minimally Invasive Treatment Options of Varicose Veins Before Travel
If your varicose veins are more advanced, you may opt for a procedure to alleviate some. These may include endovenous thermal ablation, which uses heat to seal off affected veins, or sclerotherapy, where a solution is injected into the veins to cause them to collapse and fade. These procedures are minimally invasive and can be performed on an outpatient basis.
Surgical procedures such as vein ligation and stripping may be considered in rare cases where the varicose veins are causing significant health issues. Not all varicose veins require open surgery, there are other minimally invasive procedures to treat this condition, which include:
- Conservative medical management including compression socks – Compression socks can effectively treat the earlier stages of varicose veins in some cases
- Laser endovenous treatment (EVLT) – When undergoing an EVLT, a heated laser is used to close off damaged veins and promote healing. Blood flow is redirected to other veins, as treated veins will no longer be functional.
- Radiofrequency endovenous ablation (RFA) – This treatment involves the use of energy to cauterize damaged veins, and then scar tissue is formed
- Venous avulsions – This procedure entails the removal of the damaged veins through tiny incisions.
- Sclerotherapy – This therapy involves the injection of a special solution into the affected veins, which irritates the blood vessels and encourages healing and improvement in their appearance.
Getting Varicose Veins Treatment in Singapore
All decisions about varicose veins should be made with the help and care of a varicose veins specialist like Dr. Manish Taneja. He’s here to answer any questions about your varicose veins, traveling safely and comfortably, and procedures to alleviate troublesome veins. Get in touch with us to see how we can help develop a plan for managing your varicose vein treatment.
Am I at Risk of Varicose Veins, Spider Veins, or Deep Vein Thrombosis?
The appearance of varicose and spider veins on your body is nothing of immediate concern. If there are symptoms associated with them, schedule a visit with your doctor to diagnose and treat varicose veins. Spider veins, varicose veins, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can occur on individuals with all body types, genders, and ages. The following demographics may have a higher chance of experiencing them.
- Those who are overweight (therefore, maintain a healthy weight to reduce the pressure)
- Pregnant women
- Individuals between the ages of 40 and 80
- Those who are inactive/not exercising (even sitting or standing for long periods)
- Frequent flyers
- Those who have had surgery or leg trauma
Assessment of Varicose Veins
Clinical examination and ultrasound doppler scan are most important tools in assessment and deciding management of varicose veins. This takes about 15-20 minutes to do and is usually done in the clinic itself.
Treatment of Varicose Veins
There are various techniques available to treat varicose veins depending on clinical presentation. These include:
- Conservative medical management including compression socks
- Laser endovenous treatment (EVLT)
- Radio-frequency endovenous ablation (RFA)
- Clarivein endovenous treatment
- VenaSeal endovenous closure system
- Microwave endovenous ablation
- Open surgery
- Venous avulsions
- Cryolaser and cryosclerotherapy
What are the Advantages of Minimally Invasive Treatments?
- No major surgery
- No or minimal visible scars
- Quick recovery
- Same day admission and discharge
- Clinic based treatments
Learn more about “Spider Veins: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment”. Although they might be a cosmetic concern, they can also lead to serious health issues. You might also be interested to find out more on our blog post, “Deep Vein Thrombosis: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment” about the difference between DVT and varicose veins.
Consult a Vascular Specialist for Your Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Dr. Manish Taneja, a certified vascular and varicose veins specialist in Singapore, has extensive experience in the treatment of all vascular interventions and looks after venous diseases like varicose veins, spider veins, and reticular veins. Come in for a further evaluation and contact us to arrange your varicose veins appointment today.
Varicose Veins Resources
Keep Varicose Veins and Spider Veins at Bay
If your legs feel sore persistently, achy when standing long periods, or maybe you notice blue or purple veins even bulging in the area, chances are these symptoms of varicose veins and spider veins could lead to other serious venous diseases such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), or Leg Swelling due to increased pressure forming larger blood clots over time. Varicose veins are fully treatable with minimally invasive procedures and treatments offering minimal downtime and quick recovery preventing further complications. Long term effects of untreated varicose veins can hinder your daily life and impact your health.
The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic in Singapore is here to diagnose and treat varicose veins smoothening patients’ experience to find relief and comfort. As a vascular and interventional radiology specialist based in Singapore, Dr. Manish Taneja looks after a spectrum of venous diseases, peripheral vascular malformations, and peripheral arterial disease. Dr. Manish Taneja also has extensive experience in performing all vascular interventions, non-vascular interventions and interventional oncology procedures.
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