Winter’s here and it’s a time for chilly mornings, warm drinks, and layers of comfy clothing. But while most of us are primarily focused on avoiding a dreaded cold or flu over winter, the colder weather can impact on a range of other health conditions in our bodies, including varicose veins.
Varicose veins are big, twisted veins that sit near the surface of the skin. They mostly develop in legs, and can cause painful symptoms such as aching, throbbing and even bleeding.
They are usually caused by weaknesses in the veins. Veins have one-way valves that stop blood flowing backward as it’s pumped around our body to our heart. But when these valves are damaged or stop working properly, blood begins to pool in the veins instead of continuing onward. As blood pools, the pressure increases causing the veins to stretch and engorge, becoming quite lumpy and turning blue or purple in colour.
If you’re suffering from varicose veins, winter can be a hard time on them. Some of our activities (or lack thereof) can actually cause your varicose veins to get worse.
Read on to discover how to protect your varicose veins during winter’s chilly weather.
The good, the bad and the ugly
The good news is that colder weather can cause veins to be less prominent than during summer, making it easier for your vein’s valves to manage the pressure mounting from blood in your legs, ankles and feet.
This should mean fewer cramps, less swelling and pain in general. Great!
Cooler weather also means that you are more likely to wear longer clothing, and therefore be less self-conscious of the appearance of the veins.
The flip side is that the cold weather makes many of us far less inclined to go outside and move about. Instead, we stay rugged up on our couches watching TV. Less activity means less circulation, which means less blood pumping around and more blood pooling in your varicose veins.
Another challenge for varicose veins during winter time is the typical weight gain many Australians experience due to lack of exercise and ‘comfort food’ eating.
While big warm meals are a delight to tuck into on a cold winter’s evening, the subsequent weight gain if not balanced with exercise can cause more demands on your body when pumping blood through your veins and back up to your heart.
How to take care of your veins in winter
If you’re suffering from varicose veins, or if you’re trying to prevent them from forming, there are a few simple ways to keep your veins in good shape this winter.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Put down that bag of chips and say no to that extra helping of potatoes! Fill your plate with lots of leafy greens and lean protein instead.
- Stop smoking! One of the many ways in which smoking ruins your body is that it damages the blood vessels. Get help to cut down and quit here.
- Avoid standing in one spot for a long time. Pumping blood through the legs and back up to the heart is hard enough thanks to gravity. When the body isn’t moving, good circulation is even harder to maintain. Walking causes the leg muscles to act as pumps, which help keep blood flowing.
- Exercise every day. Even though going outside in the cold is probably the last thing you want to do, it’s one of the best things you can do for your body. Alternatively you can always join a gym, or invest in a treadmill at home!
- Elevate your legs. Put your legs up when sitting to help relieve aching and help your veins return blood to your heart.
- Wear compression stockings. These encourage blood flow in the veins and help reduce symptoms from varicose veins. They also help prevent some of the serious complications of varicose veins, such as clots and ulcers. Most people find these more comfortable to wear in the cooler months than in summer.
Treatment options for varicose veins
If the lifestyle changes above aren’t bringing you enough relief, there are other options for treating your varicose veins. Minimally invasive procedures are an effective way of dealing with varicose veins while causing little disruption to your daily activities.
At Sunshine Coast Vascular, Dr Rebecca Magee performs a full suite of varicose vein treatments including endovenous ablation and ultrasound guided sclerotherapy.
One particular exciting new development in varicose vein treatment is VenaSeal. It’s a minimally invasive vein procedure that uses a special adhesive to close up problematic veins. Once the vein has been ‘glued’ shut, it undergoes a process of healing and is gradually absorbed by the body.
VenaSeal is effective, has low risks of serious complications, and offers ‘walk in, walk out’ convenience – you can literally have it done and be back at work the same day.
Where to get further information
If you suffer from varicose veins and would like to explore your treatment options, ask your GP for a referral to Dr Magee at Sunshine Coast Vascular. The clinic is conveniently located within Buderim Private Hospital in Queensland.