Font Size: Increase | Decrease

What are the health risks associated with flying with varicose veins?

I developed varicose veins after my second pregnancy. Our family is going on our first vacation in years and I am afraid that the long flight will worsen my varicose veins or cause other problems. What are the risks that I face and what can I do to prevent any problems?


Doctors Answers (6)

Varicose veins are an indicator of vein disease. Because you have vein disease you are at increased risk for developing blood clots in your legs. If you are seated for more than two hours in a row this risk increases. To reduce your risk, get out of your seat an walk around every two hours. You can also reduce your risk by wearing prescription compression stockings. You need to be fitted correctly for these stockings at a vein clinic.

Any traveler can experience blood clots originating in the lower legs. These can be deadly if they move to the lungs. This is due to cramped quarters, not enough fluids, or not walking. We feel everyone should wear an appropriate travel sock of at least 15-20 mmHg pressure. Knee length is good. However, if you have varicose veins you are at additional risk of developing a superficial blood clot in one of these veins or the underlying saphenous vein if there is valve incompetence. These are not typically the clots as mentioned before, but in some cases can extend to the deeper vein connections. It might be appropriate for you to be evaluated by a vascular trained surgeon who specializes in varicose vein treatments to assess the origin of your varicose veins. You are safe to fly with these but if they are above the knee, I would recommend a thigh length hose of 20-30 mmHg. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, get up and walk as often as you can and do the exercises which are published in all the airline magazines.

The single significant risk of flying with varicose veins is developing a blood clot. It generally does not occur on flights less than four hours. Superficial thrombosis may be only a nuisance if it is confined to the superficial venous system, but a small percentage may extend into the deep system. Deep vein thrombosis is the most dreaded complication because it can cause permanent damage as well as life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Wearing properly fit gradient compression stockings while flying decreases the likelihood of clots. Other measures include flexing and extending your ankles for several minutes every hour to activate the leg pump and drinking non-alcoholic fluids. Finally, there are small portable battery-operated calf pumps which can be attached unobtrusively.

You need to see a Phlebologist and get the correct medical graded compression stocking for the flight and a long term treatment plan established. You are at an increased risk for developing blood clots (DVT) with varicose vein disease.

Flying on long flights with a vein disease increases the risks for a blood clot. It is a good idea to wear compression socks and get up and walk every couple of hours while on the plane.

I practice close to a large international airport and have a large number of patients including flight attendants and pilots who fly regularly and have varicose vein problems. I recommend wearing medical grade compression hose during your flight for both comfort and to minimize venous congestion, leg soreness and possibly even (rarely) phlebitis or a DVT (clot). During pregnancy, blood coagulation can be effected and risk of clots are still low, but the risk is increased.

Disclaimer: The information found on this website is intended to be general medical information; it is not a medical diagnosis or medical advice. Specific medical advice can only be given with full knowledge of all of the facts and circumstances of your health situation. You should seek consultation with a doctor familiar with your medical condition. Posting a question on this website does not create a doctor-patient relationship. All questions you post will be available to the public; do not include confidential information in your question.