HCN News & Notes

Vein Specialist Offers Tips to Improve Circulation to Relieve Summer Leg Pain

SPRINGFIELD — As summer temperatures increase, leg pain often intensifies for people who suffer from varicose veins. Dr. K. Francis Lee, founder and medical director of Advanced Vein Care Center in Springfield, part of the Center for Vein Restoration, has advice to help improve circulation and thereby relieve some of the aching, swelling, and pain.

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that often twist and bulge above the surface of the skin. They are caused by a weakening of the valves inside the vein that are responsible for moving blood in a single direction back to the heart. The American Heart Assoc. estimates that around 23% of adults in the U.S. are living with this condition.

“Varicose veins are frequently accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms, including heaviness, achiness, fatigue, and swelling in the lower legs, ankles, or feet,” Lee said. “Our veins expand in the heat, which allows them to hold a greater volume of blood, so these symptoms tend to worsen in the hot weather.”

To improve circulation and relieve the discomfort, Lee offers several recommendations. The first is to go somewhere cooler, such as an air-conditioned space or pool. The lower temperature will reduce the swelling of the affected veins. He also recommends increasing physical activity.

“It may seem counterintuitive when your legs ache, but walking or doing other light leg exercises that engage your muscles can make a difference,” he said. “Your heart needs help to keep blood circulating, and when it comes to your lower extremities, flexing your calf muscles gets the job done. Just avoid outdoor activity during the heat of the day.”

Lee noted that elevating the legs can also help move the blood up and out of the lower extremities. “If that’s not an option, try wearing compression socks or stockings. They have a similar effect, helping to keep blood from pooling in your legs, ankles, and feet.”

Finally, Lee recommends that people who suffer from varicose veins seek expert evaluation and treatment.

“In most cases, veinous insufficiency and its symptoms increase over time,” he said. “Fortunately, there are a range of treatment options that can help you reduce or eliminate the pain, burning, heaviness, cramping, and other symptoms. We’ll assess your condition and make treatment recommendations.”