Throbbing Varicose Veins and Leg Pain: Is Long-Distance Travel Safe?

Throbbing Varicose Veins and Leg Pain: Is Long-Distance Travel Safe?

Throbbing varicose veins and leg pain are warning signs that long-distance travel may be dangerous.

At a bare minimum, leg pain makes travel extremely uncomfortable. In the worst scenario, you can develop life-threatening vascular complications.

Whether or not it’s safe to travel depends on your health, how long you’re traveling, and if you already have vascular problems other than varicose veins.

The only way to be sure travel is safe is to schedule an exam at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute. Dr. Laura Fernandes can determine your risk and treat the issue before your trip.

Or, if you’re safe to travel, she can suggest ways to ease leg pain and protect your health along the way.

Health risks associated with varicose veins and leg pain

Varicose veins alone aren’t a serious health threat. However, they’re signs of a vein condition, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), that leads to complications.

CVI develops when damaged valves in your leg veins let blood flow down the vein (instead of up your leg toward your heart). Then, the refluxing blood gets trapped in the vein, causing bulging, discolored varicose veins.

Engorged varicose veins and CVI contribute to the following complications:

Superficial thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis (phlebitis) occurs when a clot develops in veins near the skin’s surface. Phlebitis isn’t usually dangerous. However, it causes inflammation and pain that makes traveling uncomfortable.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

DVT is a blood clot in your leg veins. It's "deep" because it develops in veins around the leg muscles. It can break free from the vein, travel through the bloodstream, and end up in the lungs.

If the clot gets stuck in the lung’s arteries (a pulmonary embolism), you experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and coughing up blood. A pulmonary embolism requires prompt treatment because it can be fatal.

Lower leg conditions

High pressure in leg veins forces fluids out of the veins, leading to lower leg problems, including:

These conditions develop gradually, so they don’t suddenly appear due to traveling. However, traveling can aggravate existing conditions.

How travel increases the risk of vein complications

Healthy circulation depends on leg muscle contractions that push blood through the veins. The longer you travel, the more your inactivity limits muscle movement. As a result, circulation slows and blood thickens — the top causes of DVT.

Prolonged sitting also puts more pressure on your legs, further restricting blood flow and increasing the (already high) venous pressure.

Rising pressure may increase throbbing varicose veins and leg pain as well as swelling and itching. It also makes you more vulnerable to developing blood clots. 

Flying may pose a bigger risk than traveling by car or train. You inhale less oxygen in a pressurized plane cabin, which slows blood circulation. The cabin's humidity is also low, leading to dehydration that thickens your blood. 

Ways to lower varicose vein complications when traveling

 The most crucial step is scheduling a vein assessment. Using ultrasound imaging, we can quickly see your veins, blood flow, and signs of clots or other blockages. Your results determine if you can safely travel or should have problems treated first.

The following steps go a long way toward preventing vein problems when you’re on a long trip:

Another good tip is to use a footrest or put a briefcase or pillow under your feet to reduce pressure on your thighs and promote better circulation. 

Plan ahead to protect your health

 Be sure to schedule a vein assessment ahead of time. If we need to treat varicose veins, you may need to wait a few weeks before taking a long trip.

Call Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute today or book online if you have questions about varicose veins or want to prevent vein problems when traveling.

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