Chronic Venous Disease

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Causes of Chronic Venous Disease

Heavy, Painful & Swollen Legs

Prevention of Chronic Venous Disease

Signs & Symptoms of Chronic Venous Disease

Varicose Veins

7/27/2023

Beat the Heat: Tips to Prevent Heavy, Painful & Swollen Legs During Summer

Chronic venous disease (CVD) is a progressive condition that affects a significant proportion of the population globally. This is the conclusion of a recent study1 which has highlighted that millions of people around the world suffer from this degenerative disease which has historically often gone underdiagnosed.2 If left untreated, it can have a lasting negative impact on the quality of a person’s life, especially during the summer months when the legs and other extremities are more likely to become swollen.3

According to climate scientists and the United Nations Secretary General, droughts, heatwaves, and climate change are going from bad to worse, breaking records with alarming frequency.4

With these heatwaves becoming more recurrent, it represents a marked increase in the risk of suffering from Chronic Venous Disease.5

Chronic venous disease can be negatively affected by extreme weather changes, which can accelerate the degenerative nature of this condition. Prevention is key, which is why – in this article – we will explore how heat can affect venous insufficiency and what you can do to avoid heavy legs during the summer heatwaves.

effect of heat in legs

Heavy legs and heatwaves: What is the effect?

Hot weather has a direct effect on our bodies, causing the expansion of blood vessels, which can in turn make it harder for the valves in the legs to keep the blood moving. It has been shown in studies, when the skin is directly warmed, our blood vessels start to widen in correlation to the rate and degree of the warming process. Actually, research has discovered that when the ambient heat rises quickly to 42°C, and is then kept at this controlled temperature, the blood flow under our skin reaches its maximum.6

Although more research needs to be done to learn the complete effects of heat on venous diseases, one study from Sydney, Australia, noted that on hot days there was a considerable rise in people being admitted to the hospital with severe conditions including Chronic venous disease (CVD), respiratory diseases, and dehydration, among other things.7

The reason for this being the knock-on effect that excessive heat can increase the rate of sweating and therefore the loss of water in the body, leading to dehydration, and increasing the risk of suffering from Chronic Venous Disease.8

Why do varicose veins get worse in the summer?

Summer, together with the potential heatwaves it brings, tends to be a complicated season for people suffering from varicose veins. The reason being that during these hottest months of the year, the circulatory system is struggling much harder to fight against the effects of soaring temperatures.

One way of fighting this effect is through a process called venodilation, one of the body’s automatic reactions which involves widening the diameter of the veins themselves, so as to maximize the potential blood flow just under the skin, enabling the warm blood to cool down and thus reducing the body’s temperature.9 However, for those suffering with varicose veins, venodilation can actually make the symptoms and situation worse by increasing the size of the varicose veins which then swell further, pooling with even more blood.10

A sobering thought, considering the recent rise in global heatwaves, combined with the fact that 35% of people in the United States alone suffer from varicose veins, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery.11 More worrying still, the admission that not much is known about the total effects of heatwaves on the irritation of varicose veins, other than an increase in discomfort together with swollen and heavy legs.

tips to prevent cvd in summer

Tips to avoid heavy legs during summer heatwaves

There are 2 main factors to take into consideration in order to take care of your vein health and your legs, especially if you are suffering from Chronic venous disease (CVD) like varicose veins: hydration and to stay away from direct sunlight as much as possible.

  • Keep hydrated. Hydration, or to be more specific dehydration, as we have seen, can have a detrimental effect on blood circulation worsening CVDs such as varicose veins.12 Hydration also plays a vital part in maintaining a healthy blood pressure. As such, dehydration tends to be linked with low or high blood pressure that is caused by a decrease or increase in the amount of blood that is able to circulate through your blood vessels.13 Therefore, we recommend carrying a bottle of water at all times to ensure that we drink regularly to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid long and direct exposure to the sun. Hot sunny days put a toll on our bodies since they have to make different adjustments to make sure they maintain their normal temperature. Vasodilation, as we have seen, is one of the most important adjustments our bodies make to regulate and maintain a steady core temperature during such hot days. As such, in order to avoid the negative effects of the sun, it is recommended to stay in the shade, especially during the hot sunny hours between 12 PM and 4 PM. If possible, we also recommend wearing clothes that protect your skin from the sun, and a hat.

With heatwaves becoming more and more part of our current environment, it is important for us to establish as soon as possible the recommended lifestyles changes to combat the worsening of chronic diseases, as well as adopting a healthy diet to help blood circulation, performing exercises at work to avoid heavy legs and safely traveling with varicose veins without feeling the effects of altitude or weather changes.

Chronic venous disease is degenerative and can make important alterations to the quality of life for those who suffer from it, therefore it is vital to consult a doctor and to speak about venoactive medication.

REFERENCES

  1. Salim S, Machin M, Patterson BO, Onida S, Davies AH. Global Epidemiology of Chronic Venous Disease: A Systematic Review With Pooled Prevalence Analysis. Ann Surg. 2021 Dec 1;274(6):971-976 found in https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33214466/ 
  2. Spiridon M, Corduneanu D. Chronic Venous Insufficiency: a Frequently Underdiagnosed and Undertreated Pathology. Maedica (Bucur). 2017 Jan;12(1):59-61 found in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574075/
  3. Branisteanu DE, Feodor T, Baila S, Mitea IA, Vittos O. Impact of chronic venous disease on quality of life: Results of vein alarm study. Exp Ther Med. 2019 Feb;17(2):1091-1096 found in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6327629/ 
  4. United in Science: We are heading in the wrong direction. (2022, September 16). World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://unfccc.int/news/united-in-science-we-are-heading-in-the-wrong-direction 
  5. Kenney WL, Craighead DH, Alexander LM. Heat waves, aging, and human cardiovascular health. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Oct;46(10):1891-9 found in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4155032/ 
  6. Johnson JM, Kellogg DL Jr. Local thermal control of the human cutaneous circulation. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Oct;109(4):1229-38 found in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2963328/ 
  7. Liu C, Yavar Z, Sun Q. Cardiovascular response to thermoregulatory challenges. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2015 Dec 1;309(11):H1793-812 found in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698386/ 
  8. Liu C, Yavar Z, Sun Q. Cardiovascular response to thermoregulatory challenges. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2015 Dec 1;309(11):H1793-812 found in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698386/
  9. Geggel, L. L. (2017, August 15). Why Does Being in the Heat Make Us Feel Tired? Scientific American. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-being-in-the-heat-make-us-feel-tired/#:%7E:text=On%20a%20hot%20day%2C%20your,near%20the%20skin%2C%20Casey%20said
  10. How to ease your varicose vein symptom flare-ups in summer heat | News. (2022, July 6). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://news.llu.edu/health-wellness/how-ease-your-varicose-vein-symptom-flare-ups-summer-heat#:%7E:text=In%20the%20summertime%2C%20our%20circulatory,blood%20and%20worsening%20the%20symptoms.
  11. Varicose Veins | Society for Vascular Surgery. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://vascular.org/patients-and-referring-physicians/conditions/varicose-veins
  12. Watso JC, Farquhar WB. Hydration Status and Cardiovascular Function. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 11;11(8):1866 found in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723555/
  13. Low Blood Pressure - When Blood Pressure Is Too Low | Heart.org. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/low-blood-pressure-when-blood-pressure-is-too-low#:~:text=Dehydration%20can%20sometimes%20cause%20blood,water%20than%20you%20take%20in

2024