Managing varicose veins when the weather turns cold

winter running

During the chilly winter months, varicose veins can appear to improve because the cold can cause vessels to constrict. However, when the muscles and blood vessels constrict, the heart must pump blood faster to warm up the body. This movement stresses the veins. Less efficient blood circulation also can increase symptoms of pain and discomfort.

For these reasons, it is important for those living with varicose veins to care properly for themselves when the temperature drops. Although the following steps will not cure or eliminate varicose veins, they will help ease symptoms, especially when San Diego’s mornings and evenings turn frosty.

What you can do

Set aside time each day to elevate your legs for 20 minutes, which increases blood flow to the heart and reduces discomfort.

Wear compression stockings to support the veins in your legs. A pair of compression stockings squeeze the veins and encourage proper circulation. Although these stockings might be uncomfortable in the summer, the extra layer of warmth is welcome during the winter.

San Diego’s dry climate is hard on skin, especially for someone with varicose veins. Dry air contributes to itchy skin and can lead to the formation of painful ulcerations (open wounds) over varicose veins. Pamper your skin with a long-acting moisturizer. Regularly moisturize to relieve dry skin on legs, ankles, and feet.

If you are headed to the mountains where the temperature can dip below freezing, cover up appropriately when going outdoors to protect your skin and maintain body warmth.

Stay active. When the temperature drops, a cozy spot inside can be much more appealing than bundling up and taking a walk. Try focusing on the fact that maintaining strong calf muscles promotes circulation and supports the venous system. Inside activities such as at-home or studio yoga, Zumba or working out at the gym are perfect ways to stay fit.

Eat a healthy, nutrient rich diet that is low in added sugars, fats, and sodium to reduce weight gain and water retention. Choose fresh fruits, colorful vegetables, lean meats, and fish. Drink adequate amounts of water. Minimize caffeine and alcohol, both of which can constrict blood vessels and decrease circulation.

Lastly, pay close attention to the appearance of your legs during the winter and discuss any changes with your vein specialist.

Harvard University educated Dr. Van Cheng of the San Diego Vein Institute is available to discuss your venous concerns and treatment options to improve your varicose veins. Dr. Cheng is located at 336 Encinitas Boulevard, Suite 130, Encinitas, CA 92024. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (760) 944-9263 or visit