Capitol Vein Blog

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why Do My Legs Swell in the Summer?

Ah, the joy of summer! Flip flops, barbecues, beaches, lazy afternoons, traveling...and high temperatures.  When the heat sizzles, the body reacts, with many people experiencing puffy feet and ankles, or put more plainly, swelling.

Your body will try to reduce its temperature when the weather is warm. Blood vessels expand to release heat from the surface of your body. When the vessels expand, they can allow fluids to leak into surrounding tissues. Gravity pulls the fluids to your lower extremities and causes swelling.

Leg swelling can be further exacerbated when you have poor circulation due to venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency occurs when the one-way valves within the veins of your legs don't work properly. Gravity pulls the blood down the insufficient vein and creates increased pressure in your feet and ankles, which causes further leaking of fluid into the surrounding tissues.

Management of swelling includes the following:

    Move around! Your leg muscles are like a pump to empty fluid from the legs.
    Sitting or standing for long periods of time will typically increase swelling.
    Limit your salt intake. Salt promotes fluid retention.
    Try to keep as cool as possible.
    Elevate your legs when possible.
    Wear compression hose when you are in AC or during long distance travel.
    Drink plenty of water.
    Exercise your calf muscles by walking, running or doing heel raises.

It is important to understand that chronic swelling can be indicative of several different medical concerns. If swelling is persistent, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, or a vascular surgeon like Dr. McNeill or Dr. Rosenberg. An ultrasound at one of our locations in Frederick, Bethesda, Leesburg or Charles Town may be necessary to better understand the health of your legs.

Here's to an active summer and healthy legs!


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