Varicose Veins And Travel
Flying and Varicose Veins
Any visible varicose vein, even the small spider veins if found in places like the ankle region, are a symptom of venous insufficiency.
A thorough ultrasound examination of the whole leg is necessary to determine whether or not the condition is dangerous for both daily life and flying, since visible veins are only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and the ultrasound is necessary to gain a clearer and in-depth picture of the condition.
In many cases the superficial stem veins (the Great and Small Saphenous Veins) are significantly distended when varicose veins (even smaller ones) become visible.
What has this got to do with flying?
Distended veins are not able to do the job for which they are intended which is to bring the blood back to the heart with a gentle but permanent flow.
The wider the veins are, the more blood will be pool in the lower leg. This blood which is now often static, is very prone to clotting.
Sitting in a confined position for a couple of hours will intensify the process of pooling and therefore the danger of clotting or thrombosis.
Such a thrombosis can occur in both superficial (less dangerous) or in deep (more dangerous) veins (DVT) and may, in some cases, lead to a pulmonary embolism (clots are swept into the lung), which can be fatal.
What Can be Done to Help?
First have your veins checked before flying longer then 4 hours if there are any visible signs of varicose veins:
Have a proper color duplex ultrasound of both your legs by a specialist. Then, they may advise you some or all of the following whilst travelling:
- You may then need to wear compression stockings which are easily available and can be worn to help blood flow more easily.
- Though it can be a force of habit, make a conscious effort not to cross your legs, so as to not restrict the circulation.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated – preferably water – and avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine (both of which cause more water to be lost than is taken in from the drink)
- Wear comfortable clothing that is loose fitting so it does not restrict movement.
- Massage the calf muscles and point your feet upwards and then down to the floor to tighten them. This will also help to avoid cramp.
- Get up and walk around whenever possible to stretch the legs and get the blood flow moving more efficiently.
Can I fly after surgery or treatment on my leg veins?
This depends on the individual case as well as the way the treatment has been carried out:
- At LBPS Vein Institute, our patients who undergo the gentle treatment by a combination of several catheter methods, can fly internationally after 48 h, even if both legs have been treated.
- Most other patients have to wait between two and six weeks and this can be advised at the consultation.