How to deal with extreme temperatures when you have varicose veins

If you notice a change in symptoms caused by varicose veins in very hot or very cold weather, you’re not alone. While heat can affect varicose veins directly, painful symptoms in the winter are more often because of lifestyle habits. 

Hot weather and varicose veins

Varicose veins are caused by malfunctioning one-way valves in the veins of the leg. When they are weak or damaged, blood doesn’t move up to the heart the way it should. Instead, blood pools in the bottom of the vein and causes inflammation, which is why varicose veins have that bluish, ropy appearance. It’s the increased pressure in your veins that causes symptoms of swelling, pain, throbbing, and even restless legs. The more pressure, the more pooling and inflammation. 

Hot weather can definitely make your varicose vein symptoms feel worse. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Dark, bulging veins
  • Aching legs
  • Itching
  • Skin discoloration
  • Swelling

It’s not just the weather that can exacerbate symptoms, though. Hot tubs, saunas, and even hot baths can make your symptoms worse. 

That’s because large veins and arteries expand to allow more blood flow to the surface of the skin when our bodies get hot. This is called vasodilation, or widening of the blood vessels. The veins do this so that blood can flow closer to the skin’s surface. Your body then produces sweat to cool the blood, which then keeps the body cool. 

It’s an amazing system, but if you have varicose veins, it can be a problem. That’s because you already have excess blood in your veins, and more blood causes your symptoms to get worse. Your legs have to work even harder to circulate blood through your legs, overworking the veins. 

Many people already experience swollen feet when it gets hot out. This can be worse for people with varicose veins. 

How to alleviate varicose vein symptoms in the heat

One of the quickest ways to alleviate some of the symptoms caused by heat is to elevate your legs to the level of your heart for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day. This helps circulate blood flow from your legs back to your heart. 

A few other tips include:

  • Avoid hot water. If you need a bath after a long, stressful day, consider a warm one instead of a scalding hot one
  • Stay in cooler, shaded area instead of direct sunlight while you’re outdoors
  • Avoid the hottest hours of the day (11 a.m. - 3 p.m.) during extreme temperatures
  • Stay hydrated. This is always important in the heat, but if you have varicose veins, it’s even more so. If you’re hydrated, your blood is thinner and easier to circulate! 
  • Move around. Even simple exercises like walking and swimming impact circulation in a positive way. 

Unfortunately, there is no quick cure for varicose veins, and they don’t get better on their own. The only real way to get lasting relief is to undergo treatment. At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, we offer a variety of treatment options that are fast and minimally invasive. 

Varicose veins and cold weather

Cold temperatures are easier to deal with than the heat if you suffer from varicose veins. The cold causes swollen veins to shrink, which results in less swelling and leg cramps. 

On the other hand, cold temperatures can affect your blood flow. In an attempt to keep your body warm, your veins and muscles tighten to help pump blood to your heart faster. That can make your symptoms worse, even if it does warm you up. 

There’s another culprit to worsening varicose vein symptoms in the winter, though —  lifestyles change during the winter months, and that’s primarily because of the holidays. We tend to eat more during the holidays and are less active than in the warmer months. 

Between gaining a few extra pounds and being less active, varicose vein symptoms can get worse. 

Fall and winter can be the best times to start treatment for your varicose veins. That’s because the cooler months allow you to wear longer clothes and hide your legs as they recover from treatment. In order to meet insurance requirements, you’ll need to wear compression stockings prior to your procedure, and that’s easier to do in the winter as well. 

To alleviate symptoms of varicose veins during the winter, always remember to exercise. It’s tempting to stay indoors and take it easy, especially during the holidays, but that hinders circulation. Move regularly and stretch to alleviate your varicose vein symptoms. 

“Very friendly staff, Great results. My legs feel and look awesome!”

- Anonymous, New Tazwell, TN