If you’ve been on a long flight, the flight attendants might suggest a few simple tips and exercises to do while sitting in your seat. The basic idea of these exercises is to prevent the bad effects of sitting for long periods on your venous blood circulation. Poor venous blood circulation could lead to painful veins. And a condition called chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).
What Is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)?
CVI, as the name suggests, is a condition where the veins do not function sufficiently. Your veins are circular tubes that carry blood from the different corners of your body back to the heart. As the heart is in the upper third of the body, the flow of blood in the veins is mostly against gravity.
To prevent the blood from flowing back, the veins have valves. Normally, these valves keep the blood flowing in the direction of the heart. But certain conditions—family history of varicose veins, pregnancy, obesity, age, being very tall, smoking, menopause, and drugs—can weaken the vein walls. When this happens, the blood trickles back down the vein, and starts pooling in the tissues.
The pooling of blood causes heaviness, redness, itchiness, achiness, tightness, and tiredness. Think of it as the “ness” syndrome.
If not attended to, the pressure in your veins may lead to painful ulceration, and increase the risk of infection. Another concern is stasis and clotting of blood. These blood clots can get carried to the brain, heart, lungs and other important organs, and cause serious complications.
Needless to say, early diagnosis is very helpful. If the CVI is still in its early stages, the treatment protocol includes regular exercise, constant moving of the affected area, and keeping the legs elevated while sitting and lying down. Compression bandages and compression stockings (special socks) also help in keeping the blood flowing in the right direction.
From a dietary standpoint, foods such as celery, grapes, green tea, citrus, kale, broccoli, peas, soy, hot peppers, and berries contain flavonoids that could reduce vascular inflammation and improve venous functions. Also, the extract of horse chestnut seeds is known to help reduce the swelling and itching in the legs.
If your CVI is more advanced, your doctor might suggest more serious measures like sclerotherapy, thermal ablation, microphlebectomy, angioplasty, or even a venous bypass to remedy the issue.
Don’t let it come to that. You could keep CVI at bay by simply quitting smoking, eating healthy, and being active. Even if you are on a long flight.
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“What Pain in the Veins Really Means,” Vein Directory; http://veindirectory.org/article/conditions/what-pain-in-the-veins-really-means, last accessed August 21, 2017.