Managing the Summer Temperatures and Your Veins

Varicose Veins Around My Ankles

Heat wreaks havoc on varicose veins, and stepping outside on a summer day can cause flare-ups of already painful symptoms. Unfortunately, high temperatures are nearly impossible to avoid parts of the year in many areas around the country. Two minutes outside in July and August can leave you drenched in sweat and aching to go back into the cool indoors. Varicose veins hate sweltering temperatures as much as you do, and they’re also begging for cool air. 

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(Learn the Basics of Varicose Veins)

Why Does Heat Affect Varicose Veins?

Heat causes the veins to dilate, making it even harder for them to work properly—and easier for blood to stay in the vein. Varicose veins are already visibly dark and bumpy and can also cause legs to ache, itch, and feel heavy. The extra heat, then, adds extra discomfort to an already-frustrating health condition.

To understand why heat affects varicose veins better, it helps to know why varicose veins form in the first place. Your veins have valves that work hard to push blood through your body. Over time, these valves can grow weary or become damaged, making it more difficult to do their job properly. This is even harder to accomplish in the lower leg where veins must be strong enough to circulate blood against the flow of gravity. When these vein valves aren’t strong enough to be efficient, blood ends up pooling in the veins. The veins swell, creating a varicose vein.

So, what can you do to prevent your varicose veins from getting worse while temperatures rise? Staying cool may be the obvious choice; if the heat outdoors is irritating the veins, then stay in air conditioned areas for maximum comfort. But who wants to stay indoors all summer when you could be spending time with friends or on a vacation? To take care of your veins while you enjoy this summer, you can try keeping these few tips in mind.

Tips for Managing Varicose Veins in the Summer Heat

1. Exercise

Since weakened vein valves cause varicose veins, strengthening those valves can help relieve some of the discomfort. When you take some time out of your day for light exercise, you relieve some of the swelling and venous congestion associated with varicose veins. Planning exercise for the evening gives added benefits, as it helps address any venous congestion that built up during the day.

Exercise may sound contradictory to avoiding heat and staying cool, but you don’t have to suffer out in the sun to reap the benefits. Swimming, for example, is a fantastic low-impact exercise that strengthens the legs, and the cool water is refreshing on a hot day! Also, a short walk during the evening can also strengthen your veins while avoiding the overwhelming afternoon sun.

2. Diet

Eating healthy foods always offers benefits. There are some foods specifically that reduce inflammation, which, of course, offers relief from swollen veins. Try mixing fresh herbs and salad greens into your diet. These foods help with the swelling and increase your circulation. A salad a day keeps the swollen veins away!

Magnesium deficiency can also be a key factor in blood pooling, so eating foods that are high in magnesium can also give your vein valves an added boost. You can minimize any magnesium deficiency by including avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens in your diet.

While including these foods will help your veins, keep in mind that there are foods that can do more harm than good. Watch your salt intake; excess salt leads to water retention, which causes the legs to swell. This summer, try swapping out those chips for fruits. The change will help your circulation while still tasting great.

3. Compression Therapy

Compression can be an easy way to help minimize swelling. By applying gradual amounts of pressure to the leg, compression socks help vein valves guide blood upward. As a result, this can be a great option for relieving tired, swollen legs that are under stress due to the heat. You can check with a specialist to see whether compression therapy would work for you; the level of compression you may need could be different from that friend who has spare compression socks lying around.

Wearing extra legwear might seem like it would be too warm to help. This is far from the truth. Compression legwear doesn’t have to be thick and warm. There are many new fabric options that breathe, thus giving you relief from swelling without being uncomfortably hot. Again, you can check with a specialist to see which options are available.

With these few easy options, you can help your veins stay comfortable and healthy this summer. On top of these, do your best to stay cool this summer. Stay in the shade and choose water over an alcoholic beverage during those summer barbecues. Opt for loose, light-colored clothing that breathes, rather than tight, heavy clothing in dark colors. And, if temperatures get unbearable, relax for a bit inside and enjoy the cool air. Varicose veins can be annoying but, with these small habits, you don’t have to ruin your plans to bring some comfort to your veins.

4. Stay as cool as possible

Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing is the first step to staying cool in the heat. However, those with varicose veins may feel self-conscious about wearing shorts to keep their legs cool. Minimally invasive procedures such as endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) can reduce the appearance of varicose veins and make your legs beautiful again but, until then, try trading the shorts for a pair of loose culottes. Also, keep light colors in your summer wardrobe instead of dark colors which absorb heat. On top of wearing cool clothing, try to avoid direct sunlight and opt to have that summer barbecue in a shady park. No trees to provide shade? Canopies are a great choice in avoiding the rays of the sun. If you’re near the pool, make sure to hit the water regularly to cool down.

5. Spend More Time at The Pool

Swimming in cool water is a refreshing way to enjoy the outdoors while avoiding overwhelmingly high temperatures. The health benefits are an added bonus and a top reason for taking a dip in the pool this summer. This relaxing, low-impact exercise helps improve your venous health without putting too much pressure on your joints.

In the heat, the venous system vasodilates and loses some vascular tone. So, there is a greater venous space for blood to pool in the legs. Swimming pool therapy helps because the cool water causes some vasoconstriction, increasing venous tone and decreasing blood pooling in the venous system. Also, we weigh less in the water, so the buoyancy helps counterbalance venous hypertension. The best thing to do in the pool is to walk in the shallow end or do calf raises; anything to squeeze the calf muscle that will drive increased venous return.

6. Pack A Water Bottle

No matter how good your venous health is, drinking water is a must, especially if you’re going to be outside for extended periods of time. A cool drink is a necessity to avoid dehydration and heat sickness in high temperatures. Make sure to take sips throughout the day, not just when you’re thirsty; your body needs water long before you start craving it. While water is imperative for staying cool and avoiding heat sickness, it’s also highly beneficial for your venous health. Proper hydration helps your circulation, and it’s great for your skin, too! Keep those water bottles near you when you’re at an outdoor event. Also, make sure to choose water over caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Those drinks will add to the dehydration that you’re trying to avoid.

Set Up A Treatment Plan Today

If you’re dealing with varicose veins this summer, come visit the vascular physicians in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center. There’s no need to deal with heavy, aching legs when you should be enjoying a summer vacation. Varicose veins also makes many people feel self-conscious about their veins, which often leads to wearing hot jeans that further irritate veins instead of cool, comfortable shorts. If it’s time to address your varicose veins, give us a call today at 407-545-3385 or 352-658-5547. We’ll set up a treatment plan so you can feel confident and pain-free this summer.


*Reviewed by John D. Horowitz, MD, FACS


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