Sun Exposure, Heat, and Varicose Veins—Is there a Link?

It seems as though we just had the wintery weather of El Niño, and already things are heating up. But this is typical of life in Southern California. However, whether or not people are happy with this weather change, what is often noticed is an increase in varicose veins when things start to heat up.

Why is this?

Does sun exposure increase the chances of getting varicose veins?

In a word, no. So while it’s good to always wear sunscreen on your whole body when exposed even an hour to the sun, the sun’s rays will not contribute to you acquiring varicose veins.

Remember, much of your likelihood of getting varicose veins comes from genetics. These veins are the enlarged, rope-like veins that appear near the surface of the skin, usually in the legs and ankles. The main contributor of their development is weakened vein walls and faulty valves, exacerbated by increased pressure in the lower extremities. The veins that normally pump blood back up the legs falter, and the blood then collects, pooling up and increasing pressure on the veins, which further weakens and damages them. This condition affects about 40% of women and 25% of men.

So why is there a noticeable increase in varicose (and spider) veins in warmer months?

Another word: heat. It’s not the sun that is the problem; when you are exposed to warm weather, leg veins dilate and enlarge, which can cause them to fill with more blood. Blood is also brought closer to the skin to help cool down the body, making veins look larger. People who already experience symptoms will likely find an increase in the appearance of these veins.

This means that if you have symptoms of varicose veins, you should avoid heat, such as long hot baths or submersion in hot tubs and steam rooms. And if your legs are aching because of swollen veins, opt for ice packs, staying far away from heat packs.

What should be done to relieve varicose veins?

Unfortunately, these do not go away on their own, even if the weather cools off. It may be time to consider sclerotherapy, an injection of the chemical sclerosant directly into a varicose vein in order to damage the inside lining of the vein. The subsequent scarring causes the vein to close. This can be done in an office lunch visit, 5-30 minutes, depending on the number of veins to be injected. There is minimal recovery time. Sclerotherapy has over an 80% effectiveness rate among patients. Among its many benefits, sclerotherapy costs much less than surgery or EVLT/RFA (endovenous laser therapy or radiofrequency ablation) and requires no hospital stay.

Is now the best time to get sclerotherapy?

Some people prefer to have the procedure done in fall or winter, when the weather is cooler, because compression stockings and leggings are often recommended post-procedure. But if you are planning a summer trip, now may be an ideal time to nip the condition in the bud.

Keep in mind that varicose veins are a medical condition. If you are in pain or even discomfort, your quality of life is being affected. Treatment can provide immediate relief for some and quick relief for most everyone else. Prolonging treatment can actually lead to serious conditions such as deep vein thrombosis.

For more information on sclerotherapy, laser treatment for spider veins, or to schedule an appointment, contact us at 760-944-9263 or visit us at www.sdveininstitute.com.

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