How Much Sun is Too Much for Your Varicose Veins?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
sun varicose veins

Heat worsens the symptoms and appearance of varicose veins and spider veins, but that doesn’t mean patients with varicose veins can’t enjoy summertime.

In the summer, everyone wants to flock to the beach and spend as much time as possible outdoors. If you have varicose veins, though, summertime presents difficult choices. Though you may want to take advantage of the warmer weather and spend some time soaking up the sun, exposing your legs to the sunlight can have unintended consequences.

While it’s tempting to simply cover up varicose veins with a bronze tan, patients with this condition should be aware that heat exacerbates the symptoms of varicose veins, and may even cause varicose veins or spider veins in those who don’t have them. Why is this? It all has to do with how the body reacts to intense heat.

Why Heat is Bad for Varicose & Spider Veins

Varicose veins occur when the valves in leg veins responsible for pushing blood back to the heart become damaged and can’t move blood effectively. This leads to a stagnant collection of blood in the vein. As more blood pools in a vein, it emerges along the legs and feet as a gnarled rope of bulging purple and blue lines — the outward sign of a varicose vein.

When varicose veins are exposed to sunlight, the symptoms worsen. That’s because heat causes the veins to widen as blood is brought to the skin’s surface to cool down the body. However, in veins with already-faulty valves, this excess of blood enlarges the veins even further and heightens the swelling, achiness, and “heavy” feeling in the legs and feet common among varicose vein patients.

The chance of getting spider veins increases during summertime, as well. Vein walls are made of collagen, which is damaged when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Similar to varicose veins, the veins closest to the skin surface are unable to contain the blood flow because they’ve lost their elasticity. The resulting broken capillaries appear as web-like tangles of blue veins on the legs and other parts of the body.

Caring for Varicose Veins in Summer

If you have varicose veins, you don’t have to sit in the shade all summer. With some simple precautions, you can enjoy your time in the sun.

  1. Cover Up. You don’t have to wear excessively heavy clothing to stay safe from the sun; while shorts may be out of the question, long, loose-fitting skirts and pants made of light fabrics provide protection from the sun and keep you comfortable in the heat.
  2. Exercise. Swimming, walking, and biking all stretch the calf muscles, which promotes regular blood flow from the legs to the heart. Just be sure to work out during the cooler afternoon hours and not in the hot midday sun.
  3. Wear Sunscreen. A sunscreen or a moisturizer with a high SPF factor blocks the sun’s ultraviolet rays and protects the collagen in the veins and skin, making them less prone to spider veins.
  4. Drink Water. Keeping hydrated supports circulation throughout the body, including the vital veins in the legs. And since water prevents the skin from drying out, drinking plenty of H2O may inhibit the development of spider veins.

Treating Varicose Veins

While these tips may alleviate the discomfort of varicose veins, the only cure is through medical intervention. Fortunately, today’s treatments are minimally invasive and require little to no anesthesia. All can be done as an in-patient procedure.

One such operation, VenaSeal, uses a proprietary medical adhesive that is injected into the vein to close it off. Because it doesn’t require heat or anesthesia, it tends to be safe and comfortable for most patients. However, if this procedure is performed during the spring or summer, patients must stay out of the sun while they heal from any inflammation caused by the injections. Once fully recovered, patients can resume normal activities — including savoring time in the sun.

If you’d like to know more about varicose vein and spider vein treatments, contact the Center for Vein Restoration. We offer a number of cutting-edge services to improve your vein health. Make an appointment today.

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