Long-distance travel and Varicose Veins

Long-distance travel and Varicose Veins

Whether you are driving up the coast to the Cascades or taking a 12-hour flight from San Diego to London, long-distance travel presents challenges for anyone living with varicose veins. In addition to the common complaints of stiff muscles and jet lag, travelers with varicose veins also can face health risks caused by poor circulation.

Immobility and limited leg room is an issue for all types of travel. If you are not moving, your blood is not moving. Sitting for prolonged periods can lead to complications such as Deep Vein Thrombosis, DVT, or the development of a blood clot. The greatest danger is that a clot could break loose and travel through the veins to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism.

During air travel, cabin pressure affects your circulation, too. Even though the airplane is pressurized to ensure passengers receive a steady flow of oxygen, the body does not absorb as much oxygen as it does when it is on the ground. As a result blood flow slows down, which increases the chance of circulation complications. Additionally, dehydration can increase risk. Surprisingly to some, the biggest cause of dehydration in air travel is not consuming adult beverages, it is the cabin's low humidity. Typically, indoor humidity levels vary between 30 and 65 percent but the humidity levels in airplane cabins are 10 and 20 percent.

Consider these steps to minimize the risk of complications from varicose veins while traveling.

  1. Wear comfortable clothing. Do not wear tight fitting jeans or clothes that constrict. Choose loose clothing that allows blood to flow unrestricted and does not place pressure on the legs and feet.
  2. Move your legs and feet. Those who live with varicose veins know that they should avoid periods of inactivity. In spite of the tight space in an airplane cabin and in most cars, keep moving your feet and legs. If you are taking a lengthy car trip, stop every couple of hours and take a short walk at a rest stop. Bend and straighten your legs, feet and toes for 3-4 minutes every half hour. Massage your calf muscles regularly. Wriggle your toes frequently. During air or train travel walk up and down the aisles for 3-4 minutes every hour, if it’s safe to do so.
  3. Wear compression stockings. Compression stockings improve circulation by gently applying pressure to your legs and stimulating the flow of blood. Stockings can be purchased at the drug store in various colors, making it less obvious that you are wearing them. Talk to your doctor about which compression stocking is best for you.
  4. Treat yourself to leg room. Airplane seats seem smaller every year. Many airlines offer seats in the main cabin with more leg room - and often at a fairly reasonable price. A long trip is an appropriate time to upgrade.
  5. Stay hydrated. All travelers need to drink plenty of water. However, those with circulatory concerns such as varicose veins should pay close attention to drinking water and hydrating fluids. Avoid alcoholic beverages that can contribute to dehydration.
  6. Skip the sleeping aid. Taking a sleeping aid might help you sleep, but it will keep you from getting up and moving around. Discuss homeopathic choices for staying calm and feeling peaceful with your doctor.

If you are planning to travel long distance remember to include vein health in your trip preparations. Always discuss any travel plans with your doctor if you think you may be at risk for vascular disease. For appointments or information on our services, go to or call us at 760-944-9263.