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Could your swelling be heat edema?

June 6, 2022 • kbedell • Vein Disease

Many of us love the summertime. Summer means blue skies, sunshine, warm weather, and fun activities. With all of the great things that summer brings, there are certain downsides to the season too. Summer can be very hot, especially in South Florida. And for some people, summer in South Florida means swelling hands, feet, and legs. Swelling hands, feet, and legs due to the heat is a condition known as heat edema. Here we will discuss what heat edema is and how you can help to reduce the symptoms or get the condition treated.

What is Heat Edema?

Edema is sometimes referred to as edema, which is associated with a buildup of fluid in the body’s tissues. Edema can develop anywhere in the body, and it is common in the legs, ankles, feet, and hands. 

Heat can play an important role in the swelling that occurs in the lower legs, ankles, feet, and hands. Swelling these lower regions of the body may be especially pronounced due to the effects of gravity. People affected by heat edema may find the swelling discomforting to look at and uncomfortable in general.

What Causes Heat Edema?

One or more of the below can play a role in developing edema.

  • Excessive heat. When subjected to warm or hot temperatures,  blood vessels can dilate, resulting in pools of fluid forming in the body. 
  • Gravity.  Fluid pulled down into the tissues around the legs, ankles, hands, and feet from gravity can lead to edema.
  • Salt. Increased salt levels can also increase the risk of developing heat edema, as increased levels of salt in the body can draw fluids into the legs and hands.
  • Venous insufficiency. Tiny valves inside the veins of the legs can become weakened, causing a common problem called venous insufficiency. This makes it more difficult for blood to flow back to the heart, leading to a buildup of fluid and varicose veins. Increased leg swelling during the summer months is mostly associated with this problem, as the veins dilate when the temperature is higher or you are active.
  • Sitting or standing for long periods of time. Particularly in hot weather, standing or sitting for extended periods can cause fluids to accumulate in the legs, leading to swelling. 
  • Medical conditions. Congestive heart failure and chronic lung disease can lead to swelling in the legs and ankles. 

Who Does Heat Edema Affect?

While heat edema can happen to just about anyone, it is common among pregnant women, older people, people who may not be used to heat, and people with medical conditions that affect blood flow. Luckily, heat edema is a temporary condition and can resolve itself if the proper steps are taken.

How to Prevent Heat Edema

Heat edema is not permanent, so if you are experiencing heat edema, you can take certain steps to resolve the issue and prevent it from happening in the future.

  • Avoid high temperatures. Avoiding high temperatures is the most effective way to prevent heat edema. If you are working or recreating outside, take breaks in the shade or a cool building. Consider working or recreating during the cooler hours of the day.
  • Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water will reduce your risk of dehydration and help prevent heat edema.
  • Rest. Taking frequent breaks and resting when you are in a high-temperature environment will help you acclimate to the climate to prevent you from overheating.
  • Limit salty foods. Salty foods throw off the balance of salt in your body and can draw fluid into your hands, feet, and legs. Therefore, you should limit how much salty food you include in your diet or avoid it completely.
  • Stay active. A sedentary lifestyle with prolonged periods of standing and sitting can make heat edema worse. Therefore, try to make your lifestyle more active and avoid being sedentary for too long. Taking 30 minutes to walk every day may improve your symptoms.

When to See a Doctor

While heat edema is not an indication of a more serious problem for many people, that is not the case for everyone. Heat edema may be a sign of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, especially during extreme temperatures. If you think this may be the case, hydrate the affected individual as much as possible and take them to a doctor.

Also, talk to your doctor if you think your medication may be causing heat edema. They may have other ways to help relieve this problem. If you experience a sudden increase in swelling, or if you experience swelling for no apparent reason, you should also speak with your doctor. Immediately seek medical care if you experience edema accompanied by difficulty breathing or chest pain.

Make an Appointment With the Vein Doctors at The Kimmel Institute in Florida for Heat Edema

If you experience heat edema, the first step is to see a doctor for a diagnosis. If the cause is venous insufficiency, there are treatments available.

If you live in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, or Fort Lauderdale, now is the time to make an appointment with our South Florida vein treatment team. We can conduct an evaluation and discuss possible treatment options with you. To set up an appointment with us, call (561) 948-5560.

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