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Varicose veins and long-haul travel – do you know the risks?

Australians love to travel, in 2016 alone over 9.7 million intrepid travellers left our shores to explore the globe.  And given the long distances that separate Australia from other countries, most of these travellers face long travel times, during which they will be sitting immobile in possibly cramped seats.

Today’s smaller seats are an uncomfortable situation for every traveller, but it can be an actual health risk if you have varicose veins. All of this sitting is an increased risk factor for DVT – deep vein thrombosis – a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs and more so for people with varicose veins which is an independent risk factor for DVT. The blood clots can cause cramping in the legs and other symptoms, but the real danger is that they might break loose and travel through the veins to the lungs, where they can cause a pulmonary embolism. You may have even seen articles talking about the risks of “economy class syndrome.”

Is “economy class syndrome” a real thing?

Economy class syndrome is a term used to described the development of DVT after long-haul travel in cramped conditions. It is the immobility that is the issue not the class of carriage. If you’re not moving, neither is your blood, which can cause blood clots to form, especially if you are already at risk for clots because you have varicose veins, a pre-existing medical condition such as obesity, recent surgery, or are dehydrated.  The suspected reason that varicose veins increase your risk of DVT is that blood flow in these veins is the opposite of a healthy vein, resulting in turbulent blood flow.

Things you can do to reduce your DVT risk while travelling if you have varicose veins.

First, don’t be afraid to travel. Short, 2-3 hour flights should not be a problem, but a 12-hour flight can be, especially if you are sitting motionless the whole time, so pay attention to the following tips.

  1. Walk around as much as possible. To reduce your DVT risk, you can take “mini-breaks” by standing up and walking in the aisles of the aeroplane every couple of hours.
  2. Keep well hydrated. High-altitude flying tends to dehydrate you anyway, so bring along a bottle of water and sip from it often.
  3. Avoid alcohol and sleeping tablets. However tempting it may be to have a few drinks or take some pills to help you sleep, both hinder your circulation and thus increase your DVT risk.
  4. Wear compression stockings. Your vein doctor or local pharmacist can recommend medical-grade compression stockings to wear during your flight. These stockings put gentle pressure on the leg muscles and improve circulation.
  5. If you have varicose veins, have them assessed. And even if you don’t have visible varicose veins but know that you are at increased risk of them because your parents or grandparents had them, see your vein doctor and get an examination.

For our patients at The Vein Institute, we can’t emphasise the last tip strongly enough. If you are planning a long journey and have large varicose veins, give us a call at 1300 535 017 to set up an appointment for an assessment.  These evaluations are painless, non-invasive, and only take 30 minutes, but they can help to ensure that your journey is a safe one.

For more information on varicose veins download our free e-book “All you need to know about Varicose Veins in 10 minutes”



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The Vein Institute,

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Varicose veins are leg veins which do not pump blood effectively back to the heart and can be often seen as bulging veins just underneath your skin on either leg. These varicose veins have valves in them which are not working effectively so that blood which is meant to be pushed towards the heart, leaks downwards toward the legs. There are other leg veins which are still working, so blood does eventually arrive through other routes to your heart. However, varicose veins do exert added pressure on your circulatory system. Read More.

Endovenous Laser Ablation is a Varicose Veins Laser Treatment performed in our clinic under local anaesthetic. This new procedure is an excellent treatment option for most patients with varicose veins and is considered slightly more effective than surgery but without the need for hospitalization. Read More.

This is an endovenous treatment (meaning treating the vein on the inside). It is generally accepted to be associated with less pain and bruising than endovenous laser ablation. It is a “gold standard” form of treatment for large varicose leg veins treatment as the procedure requires no hospitalization or time of work yet is at least as effective as surgery. Read More.

Venaseal™ or ‘superglue’ treatment by Sapheon is the latest surgery free procedure that uses a medical adhesive to safely and effectively treat varicose veins. Unlike other treatments, Venaseal™ does not require tumescent local anaesthetic around the vein, so there is usually only one local anaesthetic injection. The Venaseal™ non surgical treatment procedure also eliminates the use of heat (or thermal energy) so there is virtually no risk of nerve or skin injury or any major reaction to the anaesthetic. Read More.

Ultrasound Guided Foam Sclerotherapy allows our doctors to visually guide and monitor a needle to the exact source of the incompetent vein (valve) to be injected. By using ultrasound we can treat more quickly and safely larger and deeper veins that once required more invasive surgical treatment. Foam sclerotherapy is the new form of delivering the sclerosing agent that allows us to treat larger varicose veins that might be unsuccessfully treated with conventional sclerotherapy. The foam solution has the consistency of ‘shaving cream’, which improves treatment in two distinct ways. Read More.

1300 535 017
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1300 535 017
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