Leg Health in the Summer
Maine isn't called Vacationland for nothing. Every summer hundreds of people flock to the state's beaches and lakes for sailing, swimming and all manner of fun in the sun. But patients with vein problems can be acutely affected in the summer, both physically and psychologically.
From a physiological perspective, most varicose veins worsen during the summer months because the heat dilates veins. Due to warmer temperatures, a leaking vein will leak even more, causing increased pain for people with existing vein problems.
In addition to physical pain or discomfort, the patient's mental wellbeing should not be underestimated. While other people are enjoying all that Maine has to offer in shorts, skirts or swimsuits, people with venous issues continue to cover up their legs. Self-consciousness about their veins can lead to unease in social situations and a diminished quality of life. Being willing to show their legs in public is a common goal for many patients with venous disease.
Treatment in summer
The treatments for venous insufficiency are the same in summer as the rest of the year, though the post-procedure considerations may be different. Minimally invasive treatments include: light-assisted sclerotherapy for small veins, ultrasound-guided therapy and ambulatory microphlebectomies for larger veins, and endovenous laser ablations (EVLA) for junctional veins.
After treatment, patients who have undergone any type of sclerotherapy can go out in the sun almost immediately, although wearing sunblock for six months after any vein procedure is recommended, to decrease the possibility of hyperpigmentation.
Patients can usually swim twenty-four hours after any vein treatment. Generally, there will be some bruising at the site of the procedure, but the bruises are fairly small. There are also many affordable self-tanners and cosmetics that effectively cover up bruises—short-term options that are generally preferred over a bulging varicose vein.
One possible drawback to seeking treatment for vein problems in the summer is that patients must wear compression stockings after the procedure. The length of time that patients are prescribed compression stockings is highly variable, depending upon the patient and the procedure. It could be as short as three days for some light-assisted sclerotherapy, or as long as two weeks for endovenous laser ablations. The lighter, sheerer stockings are better tolerated during the summer months, but tend to be less durable than some of the thicker options that work better in the winter.
For that reason, some patients choose to delay treatment until after summer is over, though others prefer to seek treatment as soon as possible. For the latter category of patients, compression therapy is less of a concern if it means receiving relief from their symptoms.
If a patient is not ready to undergo a vein procedure during the summer, it is still a good time to think about vein health. Scheduling an evaluation with a board certified phlebologist allows patients to learn about their venous issues and review their options for treatment.
It can take several months or more for the complete resolution of veins that have undergone treatments, so patients can plan for next summer by getting an evaluation now.
No matter what the season, recommending a qualified vein specialist to your patients with vein problems can lead to an improved quality of life and better overall health.
This article was featured in Vein Health News, a publication founded by Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen to educate medical professionals and patients about vein health.