How Cold Weather Can Affect Leg Veins
The holiday season has finally arrived, and along with it comes the bitter cold, indulgent foods, commuting to and from work in total darkness and a lot of time snuggled up indoors. On top of these unpleasantries, you may also find that your varicose veins act up more in the winter than any other time of year. Cold weather takes a much harder toll on our body than warmer weather, and venous conditions like varicose veins or spider veins rely on frequent movement to increase blood flow and stimulate leg muscles to avoid the onset of painful symptoms.
Healthy veins are vital to our overall health, but varicose veins are veins that are unable to efficiently push blood back to the heart. Varicose veins are a result of malfunctioning valves in the vein that allow the usual one-way flow of blood to backflow and cause blood to pool and enlarge the vein. These damaged veins aren’t just cosmetically unsightly but can be a precursor to several other potentially serious venous conditions. If you suffer from varicose veins, aching or heavy legs, swollen ankles, cramps, ulcer formation and dry, itchy skin are just a handful of symptoms you probably don’t look forward to this winter.
How Does Cold Weather Affect Leg Veins?
It may surprise you to learn that cold weather isn’t all bad when it comes to those living with chronic venous conditions. Drastic drops in atmospheric pressure and temperatures cause blood vessels to shrink dramatically. While this may slow down circulation in areas of our body with smaller blood vessels— like our fingers and toes— enlarged varicose veins actually function better in the cold, since the narrowed vein allows for blood to travel upwards more easily. Warmer weather is considerably worse for venous conditions, as the heat causes increased vein dilation and bulging, exaggerating uncomfortable symptoms and impeding blood flow.
While it’s impossible to eliminate existing varicose veins without medical intervention, the same strategies you would use to ease your symptoms also work to prevent further veins from becoming damaged. Advanced Varicose Vein Treatments of Manhattan has come up with the following self-care methods for both symptoms and prevention so you can enjoy your holidays without the added stress of leg pain!
For many of us, physical activity falls to the wayside as temperatures start to get colder. Tempting as it may be to relax on the couch this season, a sedentary lifestyle rarely engages leg muscles, which work to support veins in pushing blood upwards to the heart.
To help prevent new varicose veins from forming this winter, incorporate regular cardio exercise into your daily routine. The right type of workouts, like walking, jogging, or swimming, engage leg muscles, improve circulation to the heart and reduce pain and inflammation associated with the condition— among many other health benefits. Going for walks, or even just getting up to move every thirty minutes can increase your heart rate and encourage healthy blood flow.
Not all workouts are created equal when it comes to easing varicose vein symptoms. While running, for example, can be great for your health, repetitive running on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement could add to the existing pressure and discomfort in varicose leg veins. For similar reasons, strenuous strength training workouts should be avoided unless geared explicitly toward strengthening lower leg muscles.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet during the holidays is no easy task. However, the nutrients we put into our body can assist in reducing inflammation in your blood vessels caused by varicose veins. According to the Mayo Clinic, following a low-salt diet prevents water retention and swelling in the body. Be sure to also incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants for strengthening vein walls, and fiber to assist with circulation.
Whether sitting, standing or walking, gravity has a daunting task when it comes to pushing blood from the lower legs back up to your heart. To discourage new varicose veins from developing, investing in a pair of compression stockings will significantly help your cause. Unlike regular socks, compression stockings use a much stronger elastic material to tightly compress muscles and surface blood vessels in the lower legs. This added pressure encourages swollen veins to narrow, and blood to make its way back to the heart more effectively.
You may also consider using an ice pack, as the temperature of the ice will work to narrow enlarged veins – just like the effects of cold weather. By applying ice to the affected leg area for no longer than fifteen minutes at a time, you’ll encourage circulation and ease any painful symptoms. Elevating the legs and feet above heart level while sitting or laying will also help counter gravity by assisting to divert blood flow back into the heart.
Treat from the Outside
Symptoms of varicose veins aren’t always internal. Changes in blood pressure and circulation can often result in unattractive aberrations on the surface of the skin, like dryness, redness, itchiness or bleeding. Thoroughly massaging a daily moisturizer twice a day into the affected area of the leg will stimulate muscles and help heal dry, damaged skin. While moisturizing won’t necessarily improve your veins, it will keep your skin healthy and less irritated on the outside.
Seeking Medical Treatment
There are many things you can do to both address current symptoms of varicose veins and prevent future varicose veins from forming; however, once a vein has become varicose, it is impossible to treat without medical intervention.
While Advanced Varicose Vein Treatments of Manhattan offers a wide array of non-invasive procedures with minimal discomfort and downtime, bruising, redness and swelling are still some of the more common side effects after the procedure. Winter clothing makes for easy concealment of any temporary effects and gives your legs ample time to heal before swimsuit season.
If you have varicose veins, winter is one of the best times to undergo treatment. Advanced Varicose Vein Treatments of Manhattan has performed over 11,000 vein procedures and their experienced team has the expertise and know-how to bring out your best legs! To learn more about winter leg care and customizable vein treatments, call our office today at 1-888-356-VEIN to schedule a consultation.