Varicose veins are bulging, visible veins that form when blood valves fail in superficial veins. When valves fail, blood pools in superficial veins, making veins appear through the skin. The presence of varicose veins does not necessarily represent health risks—in many cases living with varicose veins is simply a cosmetic inconvenience. However, leaving varicose veins untreated can lead to health conditions, fatigue, external bleeding, skin lesions, and thrombophlebitis.
When flying, changes in cabin pressure can have adverse effects on people with heart conditions and high blood pressure. Because of this, some people who suffer with varicose veins worry that plane travel—especially long-distance flights—could cause health issues. However, it is unlikely that varicose veins alone would cause more severe health conditions due to flying. The greater risk is if your varicose veins are masking a more severe condition like deep vein thrombosis.
What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in deep leg veins that, if dislodged, can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism—a serious condition. Changes in cabin pressure during a flight can encourage blot clots to dislodge and travel through the blood stream. For this reason, it’s important to discuss your travel plans with your doctor. He/she can evaluate your varicose veins and determine if they’re symptomatic of DVT. An ultrasound can also be performed to check for blood clots.
If You’re Not at Risk for DVT
If your doctor determines that you’re not at risk for DVT, traveling long distance with varicose veins should not be an issue. However, if you still have concerns, there are some ways that you can prevent varicose veins from worsening during long flights and keep your blood moving freely through your circulatory system:
- Wear Compression Stockings: Compression stockings are tight socks or hose that make it easier for blood to travel through your legs and feet. Different levels of compression are available, and it’s important to discuss what compression is needed with your doctor. Wearing compression stockings that are too tight can increase your risk of developing DVT during flights.
- Exercise During Your Flight: While exercising on a cramped airplane may sound impossible, there are small exercises you can do during the flight to keep blood moving freelyMost airlines keep copies of in-flight exercises in the pockets on the back of seats in the cabin.
- Drink Water, Not Alcohol: Staying hydrated during your flight will keep your blood flowing properly. Buy a few bottles of water after going through airport security and keep them in your carry-on to make sure you’ll have something to drink even on turbulent flights where attendants are unable to wait on you. Alcohol is dehydrating, so keep intake to a minimum.
Varicose Vein Treatment
If you’re tired of worrying about how your varicose veins might impact your life or health, you can have them treated and removed. To find out how much treatment might cost, use our varicose vein treatment cost calculator.