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How Does Heat Affect Varicose Veins?

Don’t let varicose veins stand in the way of your summer plans. Here’s how to safely enjoy the sun and heat.

Summer is quickly approaching, and many people are excited to wear shorts or skirts, participate in outdoor activities, and sunbathe. But patients with varicose veins may have good reason to be apprehensive about the heat and sun, as these can actually cause additional damage to their veins. As long as you’re careful, however, you’ll still be able to enjoy summer without exacerbating your vein condition.

The Problem with Heat and Varicose Veins

Sunny, humid days and varicose veins just don’t mix. Too much sun exposure essentially damages the skin, making it less elastic and affecting the veins underneath. When the veins aren’t able to function normally, blood is more likely to pool within them, worsening your varicose vein damage. While the sun won’t actually create varicose veins, an existing condition might not react well to too many UV rays.

At the same time, high temperatures expand the blood vessels, making it even more difficult for the valves in the veins to keep the blood moving. This happens because the body tries to cool itself with more blood flowing to the surface of the skin. The result is that a hot day can negatively affect the appearance of your varicose veins, and over time could potentially worsen the condition. In warm weather, you may also experience symptoms like aching legs, swollen ankles, and vein cramps.

Why Post-Op Varicose Vein Patients Should Avoid the Sun

If you’ve recently had a varicose vein procedure or are thinking about scheduling one, you may want to consider how sun exposure could affect your plans. After most varicose vein procedures, you should avoid direct sun exposure on the treated legs during recovery. Sun could stimulate the melanin to produce skin cells and potentially cause dark discoloration on recently treated areas.

You’ll want to talk to your doctor about the recovery time estimate for your procedure — some may only require a few days or a week for recovery. The key is to wait for acute inflammation to go down, which can potentially take between two to three weeks. For this reason, some patients choose to schedule their varicose vein appointments at least a month in advance of a planned vacation or the hottest days of summer. This means the veins will heal before sunbathing season, and patients who hope to display their legs can do so safely. Other patients may choose to wait until the weather cools enough to wear long pants again.

How to Protect Your Vein Health

Naturally, you are probably looking forward to enjoying sunny days. Don’t worry — you don’t have to sit inside in the air conditioning all summer. A few simple tips can help you safely enjoy summer:

Wear sunblock. Using a high SPF moisturizer can help with surface damage (and be sure to use it on your face to protect against spider veins, too).

Cover up or sit in the shade. There are plenty of loose-fitting garments that can protect your legs without making you overly warm.

Keep moving. Moderate exercise is typically good for vein health, as it keeps the blood moving.

Take a cool dip. Alternating between warm conditions and a cold pool can help regulate how your veins operate.

Planning Ahead for Varicose Vein Health

If you currently have varicose veins, you should be sure to protect them while having fun in the sun. Simple but important measures like wearing sunblock and keeping cool can help prevent your vein health and appearance from worsening. And if you’d rather not deal with varicose veins this summer, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with a doctor at the VIA Vein Center. Expert, cutting-edge treatments may be able to help minimize your recovery time and get you ready to show off your varicose-vein free legs by the time summer arrives.

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