Does Heat Make Varicose Veins Worse?
It’s common for more people to seek treatment for varicose veins during the summer months. In part, this is because people are wearing shorts or skirts rather than the long pants or tights that cover their legs in cooler months, and they’re more aware of the cosmetic appearance of their legs. But many people also complain that their varicose vein symptoms are worse in the summer, and they wonder if the heat is to blame.
The short answer is yes, heat can make varicose veins symptoms feel worse. And it’s not just hot weather that’s the culprit. Hot baths, saunas, and hot tubs can increase varicose vein symptoms as well. Here’s why:
Varicose veins form when one-way valves in the superficial veins of the leg fail to keep blood moving upwards to the heart. When these valves are weak or damaged, blood pools in the bottom of the vein and causes inflammation, which contributes to the bluish ropy swelling appearance of varicose veins. The increased venous pressure causes symptoms like swelling, pain, throbbing, restless legs, or a heavy aching sensation.
When our bodies heat up from high temperatures or activity, large arteries, arterioles and the larger veins of our bodies dilate, or expand, to allow for more blood flow to the surface of the skin. Varicose veins are commonly found just under the surface of the skin, so the increased volume of blood within these veins puts even more pressure on the varicose veins. The extra pressure causes further pooling and inflammation, which may then contribute to increased swelling, heaviness, pain, or fatigue in your legs.
In addition, the comparatively poor return of blood up the legs from varicose veins can also cause your ankles and feet to swell. Many people experience swollen feet in warmer weather anyway, so it’s expected that this will be worse for people with varicose veins.
If you find that your varicose vein symptoms have been worse this summer, you may want to try avoiding the heat as much as possible, and elevating your legs above heart-level for 15-20 minutes, two or three times a day. This will help circulate blood flow from your legs towards your heart, which may ease swelling and fatigue.
It may also be time to consider consulting with a vein specialist to get rid of your varicose veins once and for all. Treatment of varicose veins is quicker and easier than it’s ever been, and is typically covered by insurance.
East Tennessee Vein Clinic is offering free screenings for varicose veins through September.
You don’t need to suffer from swelling or heaviness in your legs. Dr. Douglass and the staff at East Tennessee Vein Clinic are solely dedicated to the treatment of varicose veins, and lead the region in experience and expertise of vein treatments. We treat veins differently than other clinics because of our comprehensive attention to treating the root cause and full extent of each patient’s vein disease. Vein treatment is all we do, every day, all day, since 2001.