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Health care professionals try to ease leg pain
Free clinic focuses on little-known condition
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Ginny Perez checks Gainesville resident Harry Martin’s venous refill time Friday at Medical Park Pharmacy. The photoplethysmograph — “we call it a PPG,” Perez said — uses reflected infrared light to determine how quickly the leg veins refill with blood after a patient flexes their foot. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Circulation isn’t just a matter of the heart.

“Leg circulation is important mostly for people’s comfort,” said Dr. Michael Lebow, an experienced vascular surgeon.

Robert Holcombe hasn’t felt comfortable standing in more than a decade. The Maysville resident has dealt with chronic leg pain since being hit by a car 12 years ago. As a worker in a machine shop, he stands for most of the day, which only exacerbates his discomfort.

“During the day, around lunchtime, is when I’m really starting to feel (the pain), and by dinnertime I’m just ready to go home,” Holcombe said. “I’ve almost forgotten what it was like to be able to run and not feel the pain.”

On his way to pick up a prescription at Medical Park Pharmacy, Holcombe stubbled upon a leg health clinic in progress.

Leg Health Day, a new community health initiative, sought to address the issue of proper leg circulation Friday. Free leg vein screenings, blood pressure checks, foot evaluations, blood glucose screenings and Medication Therapy Management were offered to residents who visited the Limestone Parkway location between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Holcombe took advantage of the pharmacy’s free clinic, having his leg circulation examined.

“They told me the circulation in this leg wasn’t as good as (the other), and I may, circulation-wise, need some compression socks,” Holcombe said. “I’m thinking I’ll be able to benefit pain-wise as well. When I get home I’m going to try them out, see how it works.”

Improper circulation in the legs can result in discomfort, swelling, cosmetic issues and more seriously, infection or blood clots, Lebow said.

“In its extreme form, vein problems can cause medical problems like ulcers and blood clots,” he said. “But probably 80 percent of people just have veins that make them uncomfortable, or have cosmetic problems where they don’t like the way they look.”

Lebow performed leg vein screenings at the clinic, stressing the importance of proper bloodflow to and from the legs. He explained everyone is at risk for poor leg circulation, but certain groups should be more concerned than others.

“Those most at risk are women, particularly women who’ve had more than one child, because having a baby puts the veins under a lot of stress,” Lebow said.

Fortunately for at-risk individuals, poor leg vein circulation is a serious problem with a simple solution. Avoiding activities involving prolonged standing, elevating the feet when swollen and wearing compression stockings and properly fitted footwear can improve bloodflow in the legs. Physicians can easily advise patients which method will work best for them.

“Anybody with moderate or greater symptoms should be evaluated with an ultrasound, because there’s a lot of very easy solutions to problems that can be done in the office setting,” Lebow said. “You can just take half an hour and cure a long-term problem.”

Karen Henderson, a new Gainesville resident, was advised to attend Leg Health Day after purchasing compression hose. Henderson, who was diagnosed with diabetes five years ago, had Lebow evaluate her condition.

“(The hose) keeps my legs from being tired and swollen, which is very important,” Henderson said. “I saw the doctor and he examined my foot, examined my leg, and he examined my hose to make sure they were the right type hose.”

Diabetes is the largest risk factor for improper leg artery circulation, which can result in amputation if not properly addressed. Almost 15,000 residents of Hall County were living with diabetes in 2010, a condition that requires specially fitted shoes and hose to maximize circulation.

Medical Park Pharmacy hopes to offer at least six clinics a year to maximize health awarenes in the future.

“One thing we want to do, especially in October, is talk to some doctors about breast cancer awareness, colon cancer,” said Erika Rylee, Medical Park’s clinical pharmacist and the organizer behind Leg Health Day.

“If you have someone (who) can do screenings, if you catch it early, a lot of these cancers can be much less severe,” she said. “If you talk to a lot of people here today, they’re not aware of the importance of paying attention to leg circulation until it’s too late.”

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