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Summer heat and varicose veins

This summer’s repeated excessive heat warnings have brought reminders of staying hydrated and limiting time in the sun. Those words of advice ring particularly true for anyone living with varicose veins.

Not only can heat increase the uncomfortable physical symptoms of varicose veins, but varicose veins themselves can be embarrassing because of their thick and rope-like appearance.

Although the summer heat does not cause varicose veins, the increased temperatures can worsen symptoms. During summer and hot spells, swelling or pain in the legs can be more noticeable. Repeated exposure to high temperatures – as we have seen in San Diego in June and July – can cause blood vessels to expand and place more stress on veins’ valves. Heat dilates the veins, which causes the veins to expand. As the veins distend and fill, they become heavy and tired. Legs can feel tender, uncomfortable, painful, and crampy.

Additionally, as the sun rays weaken the skin’s upper layers, the skin loses moisture and elasticity. This makes both the skin and the veins just below its surface unable to flex and move properly. If the valves are weak or damaged, blood pools in the bottom of the vein, which causes the bluish rope-like bulgy appearance. This increased pressure in the veins can cause a sensation of heavy aching, pain, throbbing, or swelling in the legs.

What can you do?

  • Stay cool
    Swimming, especially in cool water, can help blood circulation. Just be sure to choose hours for swimming before or after the heat of day (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), or you can swim indoors. Sit in the shade. Hang out inside where it is air conditioned. No AC? This is a good time to visit the mall, your library or a favorite coffee shop.
  • Choose flat sandals over heels
    When you wear flat shoes your calves have to work harder, which in turn promotes muscle activity unlike heels. The bottom line is that working the calf muscles keeps your blood flowing in your legs.
  • Exercise
    Walk, bike, swim and surf your way to leg health. A walk along the beach at La Jolla Shores or Moonlight State Beach is a great place to work your leg muscles. Cooling exercises like swimming, surfing and brisk evening walks are best, because the coolness helps keep the blood vessels from dilating, and exercise keeps the blood circulating.
  • Use sunscreen
    Varicose veins are one more reason to apply sun screen. Thinner skin is more likely to develop spider veins. Always apply sunscreen before heading out into the San Diego sun and cover up, too.
  • Hydrate
    Drink plenty of water. There are many reasons to keep sipping water all day. Staying hydrated has many benefits such as keeping veins plump and blood circulating properly. Dehydration can cause the tissues in your legs to swell and your muscles to cramp and ache. Limiting or avoiding alcoholic beverages might help lessen the chance of dehydration and increased varicose vein symptoms, also.
  • Rest and elevate
    If you find that your varicose vein symptoms worsen this summer, you may want to elevate your legs at a 45-degree angle above your heart for 15 to 20 minutes, three times a day. Propping your legs will encourage blood to flow from the legs toward your heart,which might ease swelling and fatigue. Talk with a vein specialist about wearing compression stockings to improve circulation in your legs.
  • Wear graduated compression stockings
    Wearing compression stockings all day will keep the legs feeling as good at the end of the day as in the morning.

Discuss your symptoms and concerns with your doctor. Today there are minimally invasive varicose vein treatments and vein therapies that offer relief and resolution. For more information about vascular disease or to make an appointment go to www.sdveininstitute.com or call 760-944-9263.

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