Mind & Body
Winter Weather and Varicose Veins
1/31/2018 9:53:43 PM

For Southwest Louisiana, the cold weather is almost a treat. It’s the perfect excuse to whip up a gumbo or gather with friends around the fire.  But this winter, we’ve already had a bigger than normal serving of extreme cold, and we have at least another month to go.  

For those with varicose veins, a condition in which veins enlarge and become painful due to the excess pressure in the vascular system of the legs, harsh winter temperatures could present some challenges in managing the condition. 

The news is not all bad, according to Dr. Carl Fastabend, founder and medical director of the Vein Center of Southwest Louisiana and Louisiana’s only full-time, comprehensive vein specialist. "Cold temperatures can cause veins to shrink, making it easier for the valves inside the veins to function properly. This could mean fewer cramps and swollen ankles for some people.” 

However, winter weather typically leads to an increase in symptoms for many with varicose veins. During and after the holidays, weight gain is common. More weight means more work on the part of your legs to get blood back to the heart. Dr. Fastabend says it’s easy to talk yourself out of an outdoor run or even venturing out to the gym in cold weather. "If it’s cold out, try to stay active indoors,” he says. "This will keep the valves actively pumping blood through the veins.”

When the temperature drops, there is sometimes a temporary change in atmospheric pressure. "That change can cause your circulatory system to, in general, become less efficient, which can further aggravate issues with the veins,” says Dr. Fastabend. This is also something to monitor if your winter travel plans take you to the slopes. 

Another concern in colder weather is its effect on the skin. Dr. Fastabend says dry, cold weather can contribute to dry skin on the legs and even a rash, which leads to itching of varicose veins. He says it’s a good idea to apply moisturizing lotion regularly to avoid this. 

To manage your symptoms, Dr. Fastabend recommends pampering your veins a little during the winter months. "Elevate your legs for 30 minutes before going to bed, stretch throughout the day, and massage your ankles and lower legs whenever you can,” he says. Another best practice is to eat high-fiber foods, which are great for your circulation. 

While winter weather can exacerbate symptoms, the reality is that varicose veins are painful and unsightly year-round. 

For more information on treatment options, contact the Vein Center of Southwest Louisiana at 337-312-VEIN or visit veincenterswla.com.
Posted by: Taylor Trahan Henry | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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