SPRINGFIELD — Pain and swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet can happen anytime, but the incidence increases for several reasons as temperatures rise. Dr. K. Francis Lee, founder and medical director of Advanced Vein Care Center in Springfield, part of the Center for Vein Restoration, discusses the most common causes of pain and swelling of the lower extremities during the spring and summer, and offers recommendations about when to seek medical care.
“People tend to become more active during the warmer months, which often leads to injuries including bruises, fractures, sprains and strains,” Lee said. “If you sustain an injury, you can expect some pain and swelling. Ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain medications can treat minor injuries. However, if the pain worsens over time or you can’t bear weight on the affected limb, seek urgent medical care.”
Venous insufficiency, a condition with which Dr. Lee, a board-certified general surgeon and vein-surgery specialist, has decades of experience, can also cause pain and swelling in the lower extremities. Those affected may also experience heaviness and cramps or the appearance of spider or varicose veins.
“With venous insufficiency, the valves inside your veins aren’t functioning properly, which allows the blood to back up and pool in the lower veins,” he explained. “Pain, swelling, and nighttime cramping are often the first symptoms. During warmer weather, the veins expand and hold more blood, intensifying pain and pressure. Untreated venous insufficiency can lead to varicose veins, venous stasis, and venous ulcers, as well as other serious consequences, so it’s important to see a vein specialist for evaluation and treatment.”
The sudden onset of significant pain and swelling, particularly if it affects only one leg, may indicate a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis, which can be deadly and requires immediate medical care, Lee added.
“Blood clots can happen to anyone at any age, but several factors can put you at higher risk. Risks include being inactive for an extended period, such as when you are on a plane for a long trip. Seek urgent medical care if you experience severe, sudden leg pain, swelling, and fever, as well as redness, warmth, itching, and burning around the site of the pain.”