Author: Texas Endovascular

3 Blood Clot Warning Signs & Symptoms

Recently on the blog, we spent some time explaining the science of blood clots: what they are, why they form and what they can do to your health. Today, we’re going to provide some more helpful information: this is how you can tell if you’re developing a blood clot!

How Can I tell if I have a Blood Clot?

The scary answer to this question is: you can’t always tell when you’re developing a blood clot. Sometimes, blood clots form without any obvious symptoms. But sometimes blood clots form and cause a range of other impacts on your body. Many of those symptoms will depend on the location of your blood clot.

As it turns out, women have a higher clotting risk. And one early warning sign may be tingling in your hands. That tingling could even cause temporary numbness. So if either symptom develops, you should see your vein specialist immediately.

If you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a clot in the deep veins of your legs) you may develop symptoms including redness or other changes of color at the site of your clot, warm skin, swelling, cramps and pain, without any obvious injury. Sometimes, the redness could look streaky, and move down your leg.

If the clot forms in your lower leg, cramping there could be a warning sign of a forming clot. With a DVT, that swelling (called edema) could look a little different than other forms of fluid buildup. Because, if a clot is to blame, you’ll notice pits or depressions in the swollen area that stick around for a few seconds after you press on the skin.

What is a Clot Break?

A clot break is a serious medical complication. This can happen when a DVT breaks loose from your legs and travels to your lungs (Pulmonary embolism).  A clot break could also travel from your heart to your brain, with vascular flow. And this is obviously a potentially fatal complication. With a clot break, you may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath (for no apparent reason), an unexplained cough, chest pain, an increased heart rate and fatigue. Your breath may also come quickly, and you may notice pain in your rib cage, especially when you breathe deeply.

If the clot travels to your brain, the symptoms include loss of strength in your arms and legs, slurred speech and, sadly, sudden death.

If you’re at increased risk (you’ve just taken a long plane trip, you’re pregnant, or have compromised cardiovascular health) see your doctor for any of these symptoms. A blood clot can quickly become a medical emergency.

Do I Need Treatment?

In theory, your blood clot will self-resolve. That means, your body will naturally break it down and absorb the clot—eventually. But that process could take weeks or even months. And, depending on the location of your clot, waiting that long could pose a major threat to your health.

Why? Here’s the deal: if you have a clot in your artery, your cells won’t get the oxygen-rich blood they need to work. So they’ll stop functioning. If the clot cuts off oxygen to your brain cells, you’ll develop stroke symptoms. If the clot’s in your coronary artery (impacting your heart), you’ll start developing heart attack symptoms.

So, clearly, arterial clots are medical emergencies. But clots in your veins, like DVTS, are also serious. And that’s because they cause their own set of symptoms, but also because of their potential to break free and travel to your lungs.

In other words, while you could wait for your body to heal that clot, doing so could be a fatal mistake. Instead, let’s explore the best way to medically treat your blood clot.

 

How Will You Treat My Clot?

Even if it means a trip to the emergency room, see a doctor at the first sign of a clot. If you do have a clot, you’ll need one of two treatments: medication or interventions involving medical devices.

Oral or intravenous (IV) blood thinners can help manage a blood clot. Alternatively, your doctor may insert a wire or catheter to try and open up your blood vessels. Finally, in certain situations, your healthcare provider may surgically remove the blood clot (thromectomy.)

The good news is: blood clot treatments are fairly effective, especially if they are administered quickly.  But in order to benefit from these treatments, you must be seen before the clot grows or causes additional damage like a heart attack or stroke. For that reason, we can’t emphasize this enough: seek immediate medical attention from your Houston vein specialists at the first sign of a suspected blood clot!

Sources: Us News & World Report, KRPC 2 News Houston

Stem Cells for Veins May Cure Vein Disease

Could stem cells for veins be the next big innovation in vein disease? Well, the world of vein treatments is constantly evolving, and it seems like every week there’s an exciting new discovery! Recently, Nature magazine revealed a new one: they’ve identified the stem cells responsible for growing new blood vessels in embryos. Why is that so exciting? If the cells can be studied and applied to adults, scientists could also grow healthy new blood vessels. And those vessels could repair or replace old, damaged ones.

New Veins Could Transform Circulatory Treatments

Vein disease sufferers will obviously benefit from newly-grown veins. But so will other people. In fact, this development would improve treatments for heart disease. It could also help manage circulatory conditions like peripheral arterial disease. That’s a crucial development, since untreated PAD can lead to amputation.

Until now, scientists thought that dividing endothelial cells created embryo blood vessels. But this new research proves that the opposite is true. In short, stems cells in the blood create and grow endothelial cells.

Of course,  we can’t yet grow new blood vessels. So we can’t yet apply this discovery to help treat vein disease. In order for that to happen, researchers will have to determine whether the stem cells can grow endothelial cells throughout life. Because there’s a chance this only happens during the embryo stage of development.

Moving Forward with Stem Cells for Veins

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the methods necessary to track down these tiny stem cells in fully grown humans. And, even once those methods are developed, scientists will need to determine if the endothelial cells that come from these stem cells have their own functions. They will also need to figure out the best way to apply them for use in regenerative medicine.

Even with all the work that’s left to be done, the Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, Professor Metin Avkiran, is positive about the discovery. He says, “Using stem cells to treat patients with heart and circulatory disease has huge potential. But taking positive findings from the lab to patients has often been very challenging. These scientists have looked at how blood vessels develop in the embryo, and their findings have shed important new light on our understanding of the origin of growing blood vessels. Getting these fundamentals right is essential for finding stem cell treatments that will work in patients. These findings could pave the way to new discoveries in regenerative medicine and allow scientists in the future to grow new blood vessels and repair those that are damaged in many forms of heart and circulatory disease.”

In the meantime, managing vein disease can help prevent serious complications. Ready to get help for varicose veins, poor circulation or other vein health concerns? Schedule an immediate appointment with our Houston area vein specialists!

Sources: University College LondonNature Magazine

Are there Varicose Vein Complications? 7 Warning Signs to Watch For

Chronic vein conditions can lead to varicose vein complications. That’s why it’s important to treat those varicose veins quickly. Why is that the case? When you have this condition, you may develop varicose veins complications, many of which are serious. And you truly need to worry about these issues if you delay or forego vein treatment.

Are Varicose Veins Complications a Threat to Your Health?

We often hear people saying that varicose veins are unattractive, but no big deal. Which is why we’re here to tell you: that’s just not true!

If you can see those varicose veins, it’s a sign of more serious health problems brewing beneath the surface of your skin.  They tell vein specialists like us that the valves in your veins aren’t working properly. As a result, blood is pooling in your veins, and not flowing back up to your heart as it should. Patient-7-After

At first, that pooling may just cause your veins to bulge and become more visible. Often, painful cramps go along with varicose veins. That can make it difficult to get around and do your regular activities.

But, if left untreated, your problems won’t stop there. Soon, you may notice other symptoms. Including these 7 complications of untreated varicose veins.

7 Symptoms of Untreated Vein Disease

  1. Left untreated, varicose veins can lead to swelling in your legs, also called edema.
  2. The swelling may be painful, so your legs can hurt, and need rest and elevation to feel better.
  3. Next, you’ll be at a higher risk for blood clots, especially DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis, a clot that forms in your deep leg veins. This situation is an emergency—if the clot breaks free, it can travel to your lungs and may be fatal.)
  4. And that’s not all you’ll face. As your veins bulge, that pressure could damage your skin, leaving you vulnerable to infections and ulcers (these are open wounds that resist healing.)
  5. Your skin can also change in appearance, turning dark and discolored. Over time, the skin may even thicken, and taken on a rough texture.
  6. Additionally, you’ll be more likely to experience bleeding episodes, some of which may be serious and require immediate medical attention.
  7. You’ll increase your risk for restless legs. This refers to a condition where you feel the constant urge to move your legs; it’s uncomfortable and can leave your sleep disturbed. About 30% of people with varicose veins experience restless leg symptoms, especially after bedtime.

Now you know why, even now, you can’t ignore those varicose veins. But we’re not just here to scare you. So, please follow our advice for treating varicose veins during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Treating Varicose Veins in Houston

For starters, now is not the moment to self-diagnose your vein problems. So, if you’re concerned about varicose veins, request a consultation with our specialists. Because COVID-19 is still a risk, and this virus can increase your risk for clots as well.

In some ways, we can manage your vein health at home. We can recommend compression garments to improve your blood flow, and reduce pooling and swelling. We can help you move more, even at home, which can also help varicose veins. And we can realistically determine whether an in-office procedure will be necessary.

But we can’t help you if we don’t see you. So please, don’t ignore current health issues. If you notice varicose veins, reach out right away. The sooner we start treatment, the more likely it is that we can successfully manage your condition from the safety of your home.

Sources: Harvard Health

Here’s What you Need to Know about Blood Clots

In our Houston vein practice, we know how serious a threat blood clots pose to your health. When we treat patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of your legs, we face a medical emergency. That’s because, if a blood clot breaks free and travels to other parts of your body—especially to your lungs—it can threaten your life.

But, many people want to know: why do I get blood clots? And, what are they exactly? Is there anything I can do to prevent them? So, in this post, we will try to answer all of those questions. Just keep reading to learn more.

Why do blood clots form? stages of PAD

When things are working properly, your blood flows freely through your body, delivering oxygen to your organs and flushing out the waste products created by your body’s metabolic processes. But, if you get a cut, scrape or injury, blood in your arteries and veins (veins return blood from the body to the heart; arteries transport blood away from your heart) will clot to block your blood vessels and stop you from bleeding out.

But, when your arteries or veins get blocked when you aren’t injured, you need medical intervention. Otherwise, you can face complications such as strokes, heart attacks, organ damage and even limb loss. In certain occasions, as we mentioned earlier, blood clots can kill you by travelling to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), interfering with your ability to breathe.

Blood clots form in blood vessels—either your deep veins or your arteries. Typically, they form after your blood vessels get damaged, triggering a reaction in your body. This reaction involves a mix of platelets and clotting factor proteins.

How Do Blood Clots Cause Health Problems?

As we mentioned, problematic blood clots form when the connection between platelets and clotting factor proteins goes awry. Platelets are objects in your blood that group together and stick to the walls of your blood vessels when needed.

Clotting factors are proteins in the blood that trigger a reaction to makes platelets and red blood cells stick together. Typically, other proteins in your body make that reaction stop, so your clot only reaches the size needed to prevent excess bleeding.  But when damage to your blood vessels impacts that reaction, clots may grow unchecked, leaving you at risk for clotting conditions like DVT.

Arterial clots and DVT

We can’t always predict who will be affected by blood clots, or when those clots will form. But we do know certain factors that can increase your risk for clots:

  • Prolonged immobility, as with long airplane flights
  • Having thick blood (hypercoagulability.) Often, you only discover your blood is thick after developing a clood clot. But in some cases, hypercoagulability causes chest pain, dizziness, slurred speech and shortness of breath. Usually, this condition is a symptom of other diseases, including vascular diseases suches as polycythemia.
  •  Arm or leg surgery
  • Casting a broken bone
  • Trauma
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Age
  • A family history of peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke or heart disease.

Remember, PAD develops when you have atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, a type of arteriosclerosis, is a condition where plaque builds up in your arteries. It specifically means that plaque built up on the inner most wall of your artery. Once that happens, your arteries narrow and ‘harden.’ In turn, this reduces blood flow to certain parts of your body. And it also increases your risk of blood getting ‘stuck,’ and forming clots.

New research has revealed an additional risk factor for blood clots, and it’s one that you unfortunately can’t control. In fact, your blood type can contribute to that risk, according to a study published in the Journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 

The research, which began in 2017, found that people with types A or B blood had a combined 8% higher risk of heart attack, and a 10% increased risk of heart failure, as compared to people with type O blood. So, knowing your blood type could help you understand your risk for developing a blood clot.

 

Diagnosing and Treating Blood Clots

The best way to treat blood clots is to prevent their formation. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying mobile even on long trips, and using compression therapy can all help protect you from DVT. Even if you develop a DVT, compression therapy—especially within 24 hours of the clot’s formation—can help manage your risk of further complications.

So, as with many other vein and arterial conditions, timeliness is key when it comes to treating blood clots. The sooner you see a vein specialist, the better the outcome you will likely enjoy. So if you have any symptoms of or risks for blood clots, schedule an appointment with your Houston vein specialists today!

 

Sources: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology JournalAmerican Heart Association

 

Your Cankles Could Be Hiding Lymphedema!

Lymphedema is a serious health problem. But many people don’t know that. Instead, they might think they just have cankles. Now, for those of you who aren’t aware, cankles is a term used to describe wide or swollen ankles–the swelling eliminates a distinction between your calves and ankles (hence the name.) Keep in mind, “cankles” is a slang — it isn’t a term you’ll hear doctors using. But it could be describing several medical conditions, so it’s worth paying attention to your cankles.

Of course, sometimes, cankles could just be a sign that your calf muscles aren’t well-defined. It may even be the result of extra fat tissue in the are. But often, cankles develop because you have fluid build up in your lower leg.

Sometimes, people will also complain about elephant legs. This is another sign of lymphedema, but it just means the swelling extends beyond your ankle. (It’s also a sign that you’ve entered the last, and most dangerous, stage of lymphedema.) While many women, and some men, complain about the way their cankles or legs look, it turns out that they could both be a sign of more serious health issues.

What Causes My Ankles to Swell?

Many pregnant women develop swollen ankles. Usually, this cankle cause clears up once you deliver your baby, so you may not need to seek treatment. Individuals with liver or kidney disease may also develop ankle swelling. So, if you have a family history of either disease, mention your swollen ankles right away to your doctor.

Additionally, cankles could be a sign of excess fat in your ankles, and not of swelling. If you are a woman and you’re seeing excess ankle fat, you might have lipedema. This hormonal condition, affecting up to 11% of women, causes extra fat to build up beneath the skin on your legs. It can be painful and serious, and you should review your symptoms with your doctor.

You should discuss the possibility of any of these conditions with your doctor. But, today, we’re going to talk about circulation and cankles. Because swollen, puffy ankles are symptoms of several potentially serious vein conditions. For that reason, you should see your doctor at the first signs of lymphedema. That’s the only way to prevent serious complications.

Venous disease/insufficiency

When your veins struggle to send blood back from your extremities to your heart, it’s known as venous insufficiency. In this condition, the blood that doesn’t flow properly can pool in your leg veins. Varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis (DVT, a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of your legs) are also warning signs of Venous Insufficiency.

Symptoms of VI include:

  • Swelling of the legs or ankles
  • Painful,  heavy legs
  • Thicker skin on the legs and ankles
  • Color changes in the skin around your ankles

Edema

Swelling in the legs (edema) can occur when fluid becomes trapped in the soft tissues of the leg, typically because of malfunctioning valves in your veins. When the valves in your leg veins begin to weaken, or fail, the blood can no longer be pumped out of the legs properly. This causes fluid and blood to become trapped there and, as the fluid begins to build up, the leg may begin to swell. The term for the buildup of fluid which leads to swelling in the body is edema.

Lymphedema vs Lipedema

Lymphedema is a form of chronic edema that occurs when the body’s lymphatic system does not function properly. It is not the same as edema caused by vein disease, although vein disease can eventually progress into a combined venous/lymphatic disorder. As with swelling in the lower legs, lymphedema requires the attention of a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Other signs of lymphedema include progressive symptoms. In the later stages of disease, you may also not some “pillow” swelling in your foot. If it’s caused by Lymphedema, it won’t go away after sleeping. Another sign is called Stemmer’s symptom. This is when you can’t fold the skin on the back of your second toe. Also, your skin will likely appear pale. And the swelling will reach the middle of your lower leg, but won’t hit your thigh. (This is when we start to hear about model heather has lipedemaelephant legs.) Finally, you may develop fibrosis, when the skin on your leg becomes thicker and hardens.

Now, lipedema is a different condition that also may increase your ankle size, but this is due to fat buildup, not fluid retention. Plus, if lipedema is your concern, you’ll likely have fat deposits in areas other than your ankles. In fact, lipedema usually strikes your calves, thighs and buttocks. And, unlike lymphedema, this condition typically impacts women, not men.

Recognizing Lipedema

With this condition, excess fat builds up on the lower half of your body, but there’s no obvious cause for this build-up. While many women with lipedema are overweight, obesity doesn’t seem to cause this fat build up. Instead, the condition seems linked to hormones, since most women develop symptoms at times of major hormonal shifts. (Think puberty, pregnancy and/or menopause.)

Now, it’s difficult to treat lipidemia. So many women, including body positivity role model Heather Johnson, choose to embrace their larger lower bodies. Still, lipidema can cause pain, and the build-up of lymphatic fluid. (That condition is called secondary lymphedema.) And if that happens, treatment may be necessary.

How and When to Treat Your Cankles swollen, painful legs and ankles could be lymphedemaolding knee

While some forms of cankles are just the result of fatty buildups in your bodies, when they are a sign of a vein problem, treating the underlying issue may also improve the look of your lower legs. When it comes to purely cosmetic treatments, that is a personal choice, but when treating your cankles could actually save your veins from further damage, it is always a good idea!

Noticed swelling in your ankles? Don’t wait to see if it goes away on it’s own, or your symptoms may progress! Instead, schedule an appointment with your Houston vein specialists right away. We can diagnose the cause of your cankles. And get you on the path to proper healing.

 

Sources: Lymphatic Network

 

There are Stages of Vein Disease: Don’t Delay Treatment!

Did you know that there are stages of vein disease? That’s right, this is a progressive condition. That’s really important information. Especially if you’ve been delaying treating your spider veins.  Do you hate how they look, but aren’t sure if there’s a good medical reason to get rid of them? If so, you NEED to read this blog post.

Why? Because, if left untreated, the vein problems you’re already experiencing will get worse. And they can lead to further medical complications. In fact, by the end of this post, we’re guessing you’ll be ready to talk vein treatment. But first, let’s review three clear signs that pushing off your vein treatment is no longer an option.

Stages of Vein Disease

Vein disease gets worse if left alone. So you should seek treatment in the early stages of vein disease. And, to help you do that, here are the different stops along the way to serious vein disease.

STAGE 1: You’ll notice small red or blue veins under your skin. They may look like tree branches, and will be one millimeter or less in diameter. But, while they’re small, they still mean your leg veins have leaky valves.

STAGE 2: Here come the varicose veins. They are larger, blue twisted veins that bulge under the surface of your skin. at this stage, you may also develop symptoms. These include heaviness, itching, pain, inflammation, or even a ruptured vein, which can lead to bleeding events.

STAGE 3: Edema and lympheda become problems. Your legs and ankles swell from pooling blood in your lower leg. Your skin may feel tight. And it could take on a leathery appearance.

STAGE 4: Your skin changes colors. Usually, you’ll notice rust colored skin, especially around your calves and ankles. Again, this change comes from pooling blood in your lower legs.

STAGE 5: You may develop wounds (leg ulcers). While they may form scars, they’ll be difficult to heal.

STAGE 6: Your ulcers could bleed (Venous stasis ulcers). They could also leak pus or fluid. They may give off bad odors. And they’ll leave skin feeling tender or even burning.  These ulcers also increase yoru risk for skin infections or even amputations in extreme situations.

This is When to Seek Varicose Vein Treatment cellulitis on leg

As we mentioned, there are stages of vein disease. And, as with all progressive conditions, early treatment is best. So here are the clear signs it’s time to seek vein treatment.

  1. You notice dilated leg veins: Dark, vivid veins are unsightly. But visibly dilated veins expand in size, and that’s a clear sign to seek treatment.
  2. Your legs are tired and heavy: If your legs are heavy or numb or just-plain tired, varicose veins are impacting your quality of life.
  3. You develop phlebitis: Phlebitis causes inflammation in specific venous areas. The surrounding skin gets red and hot to the touch. You may also notice lumps beneath your skin. (And they’ll be painful!) You’ll usually notice this problem in your lower legs. But small surface veins in your arms, breasts or penis can also be impacted. There are two types of phlebitis: one that impacts surface veins, and one that hits your deeper veins. Superficial phlebitis isn’t a major medical concern, but phlebitis in your deeper veins (also called DVT, or deep vein thrombosis) is a medical emergency. In fact, it could be fatal if not treated quickly.
  4. And this condition is a clear sign to seek immediate treatment for your varicose veins.

Now we know how to spot the crucial moment to seek vein treatment, let’s look at what happens if you don’t.

If you ignore varicose veins in the early stages of vein disease, they won’t stay the way they are. And they certainly won’t get better! Instead, these bulging veins will get larger and more dangerous. (See the six stages of vein disease above.)

So…that’s the bad news. But here’s the good: we can stop this progression in its tracks with proper vein treatments.

And the earlier you seek treatment, the greater the variety of treatment options you’ll be offered ( all of which we’ll review in 3…2…1…

Top Treatment Options for Varicose Veins man holding knee

Depending on your disease progression, you may be eligible for one or more of the following treatments:

  1. Cosmetic sclerotherapy. If you aren’t having symptoms, or your veins are near the surface, this is a great choice. Treatment addresses unsightly veins that don’t show serious disease symptoms. It’s fast, minimally invasive and requires no sedation or anesthesia.
  2. Ultrasound-guided Sclerotherapy. This outpatient procedure is the best way to treat spider leg veins. We inject solution into your affected vein. Next, it shrinks and closes so blood flows through healthier veins, instead. Once the vein closes, it disappear from view over time. And the procedure takes just 15 minutes.  Afterwards, you wear compression stockings for a week. But you can get back to normal activities right away, making sure to walk for at least 30 minutes each day.

Ablation Treatment for Vein Disease

Another option our Houston vein specialists offer is radiofrequency vein ablation (RFA), typically used to treat varicose veins and other problems caused by venous insufficiency or reflux.

RFA is a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is inserted into an abnormal vein, heating the vein to close it permanently. Radiofrequency ablation requires only a local anesthetic, causes little or no pain, and leaves virtually no scar. The outpatient procedure takes less than an hour to perform and patients can resume normal activities immediately afterwards.

Finally there is ambulatory phlebectomy—a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to remove bulging varicose veins located just below the skin.

Phlebectomy is performed under local anesthesia. Several small incisions are made to extract your bulging varicose vein. Since we make small incisions, you won’t need stitches and scarring is minimal or even non-existent. We call this procedure “ambulatory” because you can walk immediately after we get done!

Before recommending any of our vein treatments, our vein specialists will perform a thorough exam and discuss all your available options. Together, we’ll decide on the best way to stop your progressive vein disease in its tracks! So make your appointment today!

Sources: Cleveland Clinic 

Learn Your Risk for Leg Ulcers Now

Do you know your risk for leg ulcers? Lower-leg ulcers are a serious complication that can develop with untreated vein disease.  In order to protect yourself from ulcers, it’s important to understand the risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing this type of wound.

Risk factors for CVD

One of the main reasons people develop ulcers is because of CVD, chronic venous disease. And while we don’t always know why people develop CVD, some contributing factors include: Diagnostic Ultrasound Evaluation

  • Aging
  • Being a woman
  • Being pregnant
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • On the job risks, like all day standing or sitting.

Any one of these factors can increase your risk of compromised blood flow, varicose veins, and, eventually, chronic venous disease. This, in turn, can increase your risk for leg ulcers. Which means you’re more likely to develop an ulcer on your lower legs.

Cholesterol, PAD and Risk for Leg Ulcers

When you have high cholesterol, it builds up in your arteries. Then, plaque can narrow your arteries’ lining (this condition is called atherosclerosis. The plaque is  made of cholesterol and other fatty substances called  triglycerides.)

Because plaque narrows your arteries, and because high cholesterol can trigger plaque buildup, high cholesterol levels increase your risk for peripheral arterial disease (PAD). When you have PAD, your narrowed arteries limit the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches your legs and feet. And that’s where your risk for legs ulcers also rises.

When blood flow to your legs is restricted, sores may develop as blood pools and seeps through your skin. Then, the sores that develop are less likely to heal because of your reduced blood flow. That’s why you’ll need immediate medical attention if you develop an ulcer on your legs.

Warning Signs for Lower Leg Ulcers

Of course, it’s important to remember that not all people who have CVD will develop ulcers. With people who have CVD, you can watch for certain signs that may indicate an ulcer will soon form:

  • Skin changes: CVD patients with varicose veins, thickened skin or venous eczema (also known as varicose eczema, symptoms include itchy, flaky, dry, crusty and/or swollen skin) are more likely to develop an ulcer. We also call this condition venous eczema. Stasis or gravitational eczema also refer to the same condition. When you have stasis eczema, your skin may also change color. It could tighten or harden, a condition we call lipodermatosclerosis. Also, you may develop atrophie blanche, which leaves small white scars on your skin. And eczema may spread to other areas of your body. Steroid creams may relieve your symptoms, and compression stockings can help. But treating your circulatory issues will offer the best and lasting relief.
  • Edema: Studies show that edema is present in about 90% of patients with lower leg ulcers. Edema, or swelling, occurs when you form more lymph fluid than can be drained, or when your lymph material doesn’t flow well. This leads to a build-up of the fluid that results in swelling in your lower legs.

How to Prevent Venous Ulcers

Whether or not you’re displaying ulcer warning signs, you can take measures to prevent this devastating complication. These steps include:

  • Avoiding weight gain
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Regularly moisturizing your skin
  • Avoid cigarettes or any kind of smoking
  • Moving every 30 minutes to avoid long periods of sitting or standing
  • Exercising regularly
  • Treating varicose veins

If you are concerned about developing ulcers, or already have an ulcer in need of attention, it is important to see your Houston area vein specialist right away. Any delay could pose a serious risk to your limbs, as well as your overall health.

 

Sources: NHS.uk, Nursing Times, Our Community Now

 

 

 

PAD Risk for Women and African Americans

Today, we need to talk about PAD risk for women. And for African Americans. Because, both groups may be more vulnerable. After all, PAD (peripheral arterial disease) is a thickening of the arteries that affects blood flow. It’s a form of cardiovascular disease with symptoms such as painful leg cramps. And those cramps mostly show up when walking or exercising, but get better with risk.

Now, we don’t know why, but women and African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be affected by PAD. That’s the case even for women and Black people without other heart issues. Regardless of age. Now, while this statistic is scary on its own, we also have to share warnings about things that further increase the PAD risk for women and African Americans.

PAD Risk for Women

Not every woman has the same PAD risk. Therefore, you have to look at other factors to figure out your own risk for PAD. Women who are over 60, or who have high blood pressure or cholesterol, have higher PAD risk. But, studies show that PAD risks for women without these factors are almost double that for men without heart disease.

And that’s not all. In a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, we learned other concerns about the PAD risk for women. As it turns out, women get diagnosed with PAD later than men. Then, after their PAD diagnosis, women’s health deteriorates faster than men’s. In particular, women with PAD lose their ability to walk at a faster rate than men do. Which is why women should start early screening for PAD to help prevent these concerns. As should African Americans, who have additional worries when it comes to their PAD risk.

BMI and PAD

Regardless of your race or gender, your body mass index has an impact on your PAD risk. In a recent study, researchers found a u-shaped relationship between BMI and PAD risk. They discovered that people with BMIs below 25.7 saw a 27% decrease in risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease. And, while there wasn’t a concrete number, people with a BMI level above 25.7 had a significant disease risk increase. Want to know your BMI and relative PAD risk? Start with this resource from the National Institutes of Health.

Smoking and PAD Risks

According to a different study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, smoking is a known risk factor for PAD. But it increases PAD risk for African Americans more than for other at risk groups. In this study, researchers followed 5300 participants between the ages of 21 and 84. Of those participants, 13% were current smokers and 19% were former smokers.

Researchers found that current smokers were twice as likely as non-smokers to have PAD in their lower extremities. They were also eight times as likely to have calcium buildups in the aorta. And how much you smoked matters too: the more cigarettes a participant had smoked each day, the worse off their arterial health.

In the wake of this study, Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association, says: “The findings from this study give us strong evidence of the specific debilitating and life-threatening risks African American smokers face, especially the more they smoke. This type of research can be useful in the development of clear messages targeted to our African American population to underscore the real physical costs of tobacco product use.”

Worried about your risk for PAD? If you are in a vulnerable population, or have any type of heart disease, preventative screening is important. So schedule an appointment with our Houston vein specialists right away. We can help determine your PAD risk level, and start you on preventative care or treatments.

Sources: Journal of the American Heart Association

Diabetes and PAD: How We Prevent Lost Limbs

Diabetes and PAD make a dangerous combination. After all, Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) limits your blood flow. Then, high blood sugar levels can also compromise your blood flow. (And cause nerve damage, which makes you lose feeling in your extremities.) In combination, these factors mean that even small wounds can turn into big infections. At that point, your diabetic ulcer could put you at risk for amputation.

At this point, that possibility is a big problem. According to a new study from Kaiser Health News, this country is facing an epidemic of diabetic foot amputations. In California alone, between 2011 and 2017, 82,000 individuals lost limbs due to diabetic complications.

Limb Loss and Diabetes

As we mentioned, diabetics lose their limbs for a number of reasons.  The disease can raise sugar levels in the blood stream, which in turn can affect circulation and cause organ damage. Diabetics also often experience reduced sensation in the extremities (neuropathy), which can threaten limbs in two ways:

People with circulatory and nerve damage may not know when they injured their limbs. And, because they have compromised blood circulation, even minor injuries can be slow to heal. Over time, and without routine medical care, these untreated, unhealed injuries become deep wounds (ulcers). Once ulcers develop, diabetics are at immediate risk of losing part of or all of the affected limb. 

Many Amputations are Avoidable

While all the statistics in the study were scary, there’s one fact we, as Houston vein specialists, found particularly scary: many of these amputations would have been avoidable with routine medical care. And, it showed that people who were black or Hispanic were twice as likely to face an amputation, due in large part to inadequate access to care.

So that’s the bad news that we took away from this study, but here’s something that can make you feel more at ease: with proper preventative care, you can keep your diabetes in good control. This can help you prevent devastating complications like amputations.

Cholesterol, Diabetes and PAD

What kind of preventative vein care do we recommend for diabetics? Diabetes can damage your blood vessels (veins, arteries and/or capillaries), causing your body to deposit cholesterol within the vessels in the hopes of preventing further damage.

Now, cholesterol is a waxy substance that occurs naturally in your cells. Your liver also makes cholesterol, or you take in cholesterol from your food. While you may not know this, your body actually needs some cholesterol to function. After all, cholesterol is involved in making vitamin D, your sex hormones, and steroid hormones such as cortisol. Plus, some cholesterol gets converted to bile acids in your body. And you need those acids to absorb vitamins a, d, e and k. In other words, you need a little bit of cholesterol to stay healthy.

But the problems start when your cholesterol levels rise. Because, unfortunately, cholesterol can build up. Then, deposits can clog your arteries, causing a condition known as atherosclerosis. (That’s when your arteries narrow, or harden. It’s what causes PAD, leaving you at risk of heart-related complications.) And that’s where specialists like Drs. Fox, Hardee and Valenson can help: using interventional radiology techniques, we can remove blockages and help restore your blood flow.

Improved blood flow will reduce your risk of ulcers, help heal existing wounds, and go a long way towards preventing limb loss. Plus, it can help relieve other symptoms of PAD, including pain when you walk, hair loss and skin changes. Even better? Choosing minimally invasive PAD treatment can do more to prevent limb loss.

Amputations, PCBs and Peripheral Arteries

A new review from the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery suggests that widening your arteries using paclitaxel-coated balloons (PCBs) ups your risk for major amputation. Fortunately, in our office, we can also treat PAD with stents or atherectomy, so you have your choice of limb-saving options. Which, along with diabetes care, may help you preserve your long-term health.

What does all this mean for you? Well, if you have diabetes, make sure you keep up appointments with your regular medical team. (And make sure to address any circulatory problems right away.)  If you’ve got reduced blood flow or atherosclerosis, make an appointment with our team of experts right away. Doing so might just be the decision you make that saves your limbs!

 

Sources: Greatist , Kaiser Health news, diabetes.co.uk

Good and Bad Cholesterol, PAD and Your Veins

In recent years, we’ve told healthy eaters  to focus on ‘good cholesterol.’ That good cholesterol is also called HDL. And it’s touted it’s heart health benefits. Popular diet plans, like the Keto diet, focus on high fat intake. These suggest that eating good fats will be good for you!

What’s behind this idea? The thinking is that LDL (bad cholesterol), not HDL,  causes plaque to build up in your arteries. This build up then leads to conditions like peripheral arterial disease (PAD). And when people have PAD,  blood flow from their heart to the rest of their body slows down. In turn, this can lead to pain, cramping, ulcers and blood clots.

According to old beliefs, HDL moved LDL away from arteries and into the liver. That seemed to prevent the kind of plaque build up that leads to PAD. Because of that kind of thinking, people were encouraged to eat foods that were rich in HDL, like olive oil, salmon and avocado. But now, research is turning that kind of thinking around, warning us that too much HDL can be just as ‘bad’ for your body as the other kind of cholesterol.

Foods to Lower Bad Cholesterol

We know that lowering cholesterol is only one piece of the puzzle. But if you want to fight bad cholesterol, look for foods with omega-3 fatty acids. These include ALA, or alpha linolenic acid, DHA or docosahexaenoic acid and EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid.

Oils, seeds and nuts are strong sources of ALA. But sourcing DHA is harder, since oily fish are the only food-based source for this omega-3.

But what fish are considered oily? Top choices include:

  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Swordfish
  • Trout

 

To get enough DHA, you’d want to have up to four servings each week of these fish. But, while DHA is important for pregnant women, eating that much fish could raise your mercury levels. So you should limit your weekly fish intake and instead talk to your healthcare provider about DHA or fish oil supplements. You should also avoid swordfish entirely while pregnant or nursing.

Even with these dietary fixes, you can’t get away with simply lowering bad cholesterol. Because, as it turns out, good cholesterol isn’t a quick fix for everything. So keep reading to find out why.

The Problem with Good Cholesterol

In this Emory University study, researchers followed 6000 people with an average age of 63 to assess their risk of heart attack or death. As we might have expected from previous studies, participants with middling HDL levels (between 41–60 milligrams per decilitre) had the lowest risk of adverse cardiovascular events. People with HDL levels below that range did, in fact, show increased risk of heart attack.

But here’s the shocking part: people with HDL levels ABOVE that range had the highest risk levels. In fact, their risk of cardiovascular events were increased by 50%! Scientists think that this increased risk is because, in high volumes, HDL may change its behavior. Instead of pulling LDL away from the arteries, it may actually transfer the LDL onto the artery walls, increasing people’s risk of vascular diseases like PAD.

While the evidence is clear in suggesting that high HDL levels increase your risk of heart attack, it is not yet proven that too much good cholesterol is the actual cause of this increased risk. At the same time, it is fact that the ‘right’ amount of HDL can protect your heart health. Given these facts, our Houston vein specialists do not yet recommend changing your diet. Instead we suggest eating heart-healthy fats in moderation. That, combined with a sensible diet and exercise, should keep you in the proven ‘safe’ zone for cholesterol.

New Findings on Olive Oil

Even with warnings about good cholesterol, there’s still evidence supporting olive oil benefits. In fact, a new study in Atherosclerosis says that daily olive oil intake protect against PAD. At the same time, it says that olive pomace oil (extracted from olive pulp) could increase your PAD risk.

The findings were part of PREDIMED-Plus, the largest nutrition trial study in Spain. It involved 4,330 participants. Researchers looked at the ankle-brachial index (ABI), considered a PDA marker. And tried to make a connection with patients’ olive oil and olive pomace oil consumption.

What they found was interesting. Participants with the highest olive oil consumption had higher ABI readings. Which meant lower PAD risks.

And, based on those findings, researchers made an important conclusion. Patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease could help prevent PAD by consuming olive oil. And they could raise their risk by taking pomace olive oil. The study appears to confirm the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet. Which is balanced and full of other heart healthy foods. And likely keeps your good cholesterol levels in the right window.

 

Early Warnings about High Good and Bad Cholesterol

Here’s what else we’ve learned about cholesterol and PAD. Once, we didn’t worry about high cholesterol levels in young people. We thought they had plenty of time to turn the ship around, and take back control of their heart health. But now, a study from the Journal of American Cardiology has a dire warning. According to these findings, having high cholesterol in your teens and 20s is a major risk factor for PAD and other forms of heart disease.

What’s behind these findings? It goes back to bad cholesterol, or LDL levels. Apparently,. the damage LDL causes to your arteries is irreversible. In other words, even if you bring down your bad cholesterol levels in your 30s, you may not be able to prevent hardening of the arteries. Given these findings, treating high cholesterol is critical at any age. Like vein treatments, delaying cholesterol interventions can lead to worse health conditions. Which means you must seek therapy at the first sign of a good and bad cholesterol problem.

Ready to take control of your cholesterol, vein and arterial health? We’re here to help, and we suggest starting with a diagnostic ultrasound. With this tool, we can detect if cholesterol has caused any problems, and get you started on appropriate health care.

Sources: Atherosclerosis Journal, European Society of Cardiology, Science Daily, Journal of the American College of Cardiology

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