Category: PAD

Got Leg Pain? It Could Be PAD…or Varicose Veins

If you have unexplained leg pain, especially after you walk or exercise, you could be one of the eight to ten million people in the United States who suffer from Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). This condition is often difficult to diagnose, leaving many sufferers untreated, which is a serious problem due to the danger that it can pose.

PAD symptomsWhat is PAD?

Peripheral Artery Disease is caused by a narrowing of the peripheral arteries. While it most commonly affects the legs, it can also be found in the stomach, arms, and even your head. Arteries begin to narrow when plaque, which is made up of cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and fatty substances, builds on the walls of the artery. The disease restricts the amount of blood flow and raises blood pressure. In severe cases, a blood clot can form and completely stop your blood flow, which can result in a stroke or heart attack.

Why is that the case? Your circulatory problems prevent blood from moving through your body as it should. At the early stages, this may cause PAD leg pain, as your lower limbs struggle to get enough oxygen-rich blood. Later on, that can translate to heart attacks if blood flow to your organ is compromised. Or, it could lead to clotting as blood backs up in your arteries, followed by stroke if a clot suddenly bursts near your brain.

Risks & Symptoms of PAD

You could have PAD and not notice any symptoms until your disease progresses. Others may mistake their PAD symptoms for another condition. To avoid misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses, it is important to learn the most commonly observed symptoms of PAD. They include:

  • Leg pain during exercise, and also when at rest
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • A burning sensation in your legs, even when you’re resting
  • Wounds (ulcers) of the legs, foot, or toes that do not heal easily
  • With those wounds, you may also notice pus on your toes or lower legs. And that pus will have a foul odor.
  • Legs or feet that are cold to the touch
  • Slow nail growth on toes or lack of hair growth on the leg
  • Some men experience erectile dysfunction
  • Critical limb ischemia, a severe blockage in your lower legs that can threaten mobility and leave you with chronic pain

Patients are more at risk for peripheral artery disease when they:

  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Have diabetes
  • Are obese
  • Have high blood pressure & cholesterol
  • Are over 50 years of age
  • Have a family history of heart issues or strokes

How is PAD Diagnosed?

Diagnosing peripheral artery disease is painless. And there are many ways to test for PAD, so your health care provider will perform a physical examination to determine which to choose. In addition, your doctor may perform:

Ankle Brachial Index: This compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in the arms. It determines if your blood pressure is faltering in one area or throughout the body. Next, there are ultrasounds, which use sound waves to measure blood flow and visualize blockages in your arteries. Alternatively, you may need angiography: you’ll get a colored dye injection in your blood vessels. Then, we’ll trace the dye with an imaging device, so we can follow your blood path and determine where the problems lie. Finally, you may need blood tests to determine if your symptoms are the result of diabetes or other issues.

When is it NOT PAD Leg Pain?

While the pain in your legs could be a sign of PAD, varicose veins can also leave you with leg pain. But it’s unlike PAD leg pain, which feels crampy and is usually linked to movement. When varicose veins are to blame, the pain in your legs is dull and achy. This condition can make your legs feel heavy, or you may even experience a burning sensation.

Like PAD, developing one or more varicose veins is a sign of trouble in your circulatory system. It is not merely a cosmetic concern. For that reason, if you notice any kind of leg pain, it’s important you make an immediate appointment with our Houston area vein specialists. During a comprehensive exam, we can diagnose the cause of your discomfort and get you on the path to recovery!

Sources: Mayoclinic.org

Here’s What you Need to Know about Bloodclots

In our Houston vein practice, we know how serious a threat bloodclots 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 bloodclots 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. On certain occasions, as we mentioned earlier, blood clots can kill you by traveling 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.

Bloodclots Risk Factors

Anyone can develop a clot. But certain issues raise your risk. About 8% of the population experiences hypercoagulation, a condition that makes your blood clot more often. But for those of us who don’t face this concern, pregnancy, heart disease and cancer could all increase your risk.

Still, even your lifestyle could be an issue. Being stuck in bed for extended periods makes bloodclots more likely to form. Any damage to your blood vessel walls, either due to injury or surgery, could also spell trouble. Finally, while research is ongoing, prior COVID infection seems to trigger an inflammatory response that could make your blood more likely to clot.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Since a blood clot in your legs can break free and travel to your lungs, it’s very important to recognize the early warning signs. With a clot, you may notice a hard lump in your leg, which could also display inflammation. When the affected vein is near your surface.

When your surface veins are impacted, some people describe clots as feeling like thin sausages. And, in many cases, the skin on top of that bulge appears red in color. If you notice any of these signs, seek immediate medical attention. Otherwise, you’re at risk for serious medical complications and health concerns.

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

 

Signs of PAD Men and Women Need to Know

We want to tell you about the signs of PAD men and women need to know. Because we want to raise awareness for heart disease. And PAD is just that.

Remember: peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) occurs when plaque in your arteries slows the flow of blood from your heart to the rest of your body. That ‘plaque’ is mostly composed of cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and fatty substances. As it collects in your arteries, they narrow and harden (Atherosclerosis). And, as the rest of your body gets limited blood flow, they aren’t able to function optimally.  Some people with PAD will experience symptoms right away. Others won’t know they have a problem in the early stages of this disease. And, even when PAD does cause symptoms, it can be difficult to diagnose, since these symptoms often mimic those of other conditions. Of course, there’s one more issue that can make it difficult to treat diagnose PAD: the disease may look different in men than in women. Let’s take a closer look.

What are the Symptoms of PAD?

As we mentioned, you could have PAD and not experience any symptoms. Still, all of the following are considered PAD symptoms. If you experience one or more of these issues, you should talk to your vein specialists right away. Symptoms of PAD include coldness or numbness of the legs and feet, discoloration in the legs, cramping of the hips, thighs, or calf muscles and difficulty in healing from minor wounds of the legs or feet.

You may also notice burning or aching sensations of the feet, poor toenail growth, pain while or soon after walking, slowed hair growth on the legs. In men, you may even see erectile dysfunction,

Now that we’ve reviewed PAD presentations for both genders, let’s explore some of the different ways the disease manifests by gender.

What Does PAD Look Like for Men vs. Women?

Men seem to develop PAD symptoms earlier than women, although that is not always the case. As a result, male PAD patients may see their doctors sooner, allowing for earlier interventions and improved treatment outcomes.

Because women with PAD tend to get later diagnoses, they also appear to develop more simultaneous chronic conditions (comorbidities). Also, according to new research, body fat and menopause can increase women’s PAD risk. Specifically, upper body fat seems to increase your post-menopause PAD risk. But lower body fat appears to have the opposite effect.

Additionally, post-menopausal women tend to develop calcium buildup in their breasts. And, according to this study, that build-up increases women’s cardiovascular disease risk by 51%. This risk was for any kind of heart disease. But, their specific risk for peripheral arterial disease rose by 23%.

Even worse? Another new study reveals that osteoporosis increases your PAD risk by as much as 28%. And, because women start off life with lower bone density, and lose bone mass faster, they develop osteoporosis more often.

Even so, and regardless of body fat distribution, in patients with PAD and diabetes, male patients are more likely to face limb loss due to amputation.

Why is PAD so Dangerous?

Since your arteries are narrowed by PAD, and your blood isn’t flowing as it should, a blood clot can form on the surface of your plaque build-up, creating a potentially life-threatening situation if that clot travels to your lungs. It’s also possible for a piece of plaque to break off and completely cut off your blood flow, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

But wait, there’s still more: because PAD affects blood flow to your limbs, if PAD goes untreated long enough, you may develop gangrene in one or more of your limbs (gangrene is the term for the death of body tissue due to lack of blood flow or serious infection.)[i] And if you develop gangrene, you will face partial or full limb amputation. Clearly, treating PAD is crucial to your long-term health.

How Can I Treat PAD?

We can easily diagnose PAD in our office, using a bedside test called an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI). During this procedure, we use ultrasound and blood pressure cuffs to evaluate the circulation in your arms and legs. If your results aren’t what we want to see, we may order further imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) or Computed Tomography (CT) to determine the extent of your problem and to help us plan your treatment.

At Texas Endovascular Associates, we are passionate about treating patients who suffer from PAD. We use the most up to date, state of the art equipment available to treat your disease. Now, in the early stages, you can try to boost circulation to your feet. Moving more is a great way to boost blood flow to your feet. That’s why we share weekly exercise tips to help your circulation and vein health.

You can also change your diet to improve vein health and circulation. Be sure to avoid circulation busting culprits like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. (Or any other items your specialist says to steer clear of.) You could also score some pairs of compression socks, possibly even prescription ones. These now-stylish wardrobe staples really improve blood flow to your feet.

Specialized Care for PAD in Men and Women

Sometimes, though, these at-home efforts won’t be enough. And that’s when our vein specialists will discuss other treatment options. But don’t be scared.

Using minimally invasive procedures that do not require an overnight hospital stay, our team provides treatments such as Angioplasty, Stenting, and Atherectomy. In that way, we’re often able to spare you from more invasive, open surgeries. In fact, many of our PAD patients get discharged the same day as their procedure, facing minimal recovery time once they get home!

If you’re experiencing PAD symptoms, don’t wait for a consultation. We can even begin your treatment process via Telemedicine, although you will have to come to the office for a final diagnosis. And, if you’ve already been diagnosed with PAD, it is important that you not delay treatment. Doing so can allow your disease to progress, raising your risk of fatal complications.

 

Sources: Mayoclinic.org, MDmag.com

[i] Mayoclinic.org. “Gangrene.”

The Scary Truth about PAD and Limb Loss

PAD is one of the top causes of limb loss in this country. And that’s a big deal, since over 2 million people in the United States are living with limb loss. If those statistics sound scary, consider this: by the year 2050, an estimated 3.6 million people will have a lost limb.

Now, vascular conditions are responsible for the most amputations in this country. But they aren’t the only problem. Other causes of limb loss include trauma, cancers and birth defects.

PAD Limb Loss Statistics

A year-long study by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America uncovered frightening stats.

  • Diabetics have a 10 times higher risk of amputation than anyone else.
  • Among diabetics, those of African American, Hispanic, and Native Americans backgrounds have an even higher risk of lower limb loss.
  • 82% of amputations in the U.S. are the result of vascular disease. We expect this percentage to rise as more Americans develop diabetes and PAD.

Diabetes, PAD and Limb Loss PAD causes leg pain and limb loss

What’s the connection between these big three problems? Let’s take a closer look. Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired.

When diabetes is poorly controlled, glucose can build up in the blood stream and contribute to the development of plaque, a substance that can narrow your arteries and reduce blood flow, usually to your legs and feet.

PAD and Cholesterol

Built-up glucose isn’t all that contributes to plaque. High cholesterol levels are also part of the problem. Your liver produces cholesterol to help regulate your metabolism. But when it produces too much of this waxy substance, cholesterol can combine with glucose and other substances to create plaque buildup. And that’s when your blood flow can be affected.

One of the earliest signs of a problem is when your toenail growth slows down. Brittle toenails can also be a problem, along with loss of leg hair, shrunken muscles, or even erectile dysfunction in men. But all of these are merely symptoms of the main problem–reduced blood flow to your extremities.

In fact, that’s the definition of PAD—a condition that sets in when blood vessels develop atherosclerosis (built up plaque) inside the vessel walls. The plaque narrows the vessels narrower, slowing blood flow. If a blockage hardens it is more likely to burst and cause a blood clot to develop. A clot may completely block your artery, which cuts off blood flow to your legs and feet. If that occurs, a few things could happen.

Because of the reduction in blood flow that comes with PAD, the vascular condition is a risk factor for foot ulcers (deep wounds that just won’t heal), and foot ulcers frequently lead to foot and lower limb amputations, especially in diabetic patients. In severe instances, where all blood flow to the legs and feet is blocked, gangrene can take hold in your limbs and lead to an amputation before you even see an ulcer or any other warning sign.

Are you starting to get the picture? Each condition feeds into the next, putting individuals at major risk of losing vital limbs.

Who’s At Risk for PAD?

  • Anyone over the age of 50
  • Diabetics
  • People with kidney failure
  • Obese or sedentary individuals
  • Smokers
  • People with high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Individuals with a family history of PAD

PAD Treatment Options manage blood pressure to prevent PAD and limb loss

We have to diagnose your PAD before offering treatment. Because, without a comprehensive vascular exam, available in our Houston vein clinic, it’s difficult to spot PAD. After all, PAD symptoms can imitate other problems, so this condition is often misdiagnosed or not caught at all!

Currently, doctors are exploring new PAD treatments. One of these experimental ideas involves standing on a pulsating plate for half an hour. Called Revitive, the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) hopes this therapy will improve your blood flow, helping relieve PAD pain.

Other PAD treatments may involve surgery to transplant healthy veins from somewhere else in your body. You may also need to treat the underlying causes of your PAD. So treatment could include prescription medications to manage blood pressure and cholesterol. You may even need blood thinners to help improve blood flow to your legs.

But in our office, we try to help you find relief in the safest way possible. Once you know that you have PAD, we can determine a treatment plan: interventions may be as simple as recommending lifestyle changes like a better diet and more exercise. Depending on the progression of the disease, our vein doctor may recommend unblocking your arteries through one of our minimally invasive interventional radiology treatments.

Our goal as vein doctors is to protect your vein health and your limbs. Know the risks of PAD and, if you believe you may have this condition, come in for a consultation. One simple exam could keep you from becoming part of this country’s growing group of limb loss victims.

Sources: https://www.sciencedirect.com, NHS Health Research Authority

Eat This, Not That: Your Healthy Vein Diet

Did you know that a healthy vein diet can improve your circulation? That’s important because your body’s circulatory system stretches over 60,000 miles long. And i veint plays an integral role in maintaining your overall health. Keeping it strong and nourished is vital for managing or avoiding venous diseases—including varicose veins—as well as for living a long and healthy life.

Thankfully, nourishing your veins is easier than you might think. A daily dose of moderate exercise combined with following these three diet tips will ensure that you and your veins are keeping your body’s circulatory system strong.

Your Guide to Healthy Veins

#1: Eat the Rainbow

What do rainbows have to do with your veins? Bioflavonoids, also known as Vitamin P, are the source of vibrant colors in certain fruits and vegetables. More significantly, Vitamin P also helps protect these fruits and veggies against microbes and insects. Studies have proven that a long-term diet rich in bioflavonoids not only improves the appearance of varicose veins, it also strengthens the walls of your blood vessels. And when those blood vessel walls are strong, veins are subject to much less of the stress that leads to and exacerbates venous diseases. When searching for foods high in bioflavonoids, look for brightly colored fruits and veggies like red bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, spinach, and peaches.

#2: Don’t Forget Fiber for a Healthy Vein Diet

You’re probably aware of the digestive benefits of a high-fiber diet. But did you know that fiber can also help strengthen your veins? Soluble fiber, the kind that can’t be digested, stays intact when passing through your intestine and prevents constipation. Frequent constipation puts a large amount of undue stress on your veins. Foods that are high in fiber include oats, buckwheat, peas, apples, and berries.

Some nuts and seeds are also packed with fiber. And they’ll offer additional support thanks to their B3 and niacin content, both of which fight inflammation. Top choices include hemp, chia, flax, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds.

If you have trouble incorporating these foods into your diet, mixing flavorless psyllium powder into your morning glass of tea or water works just as well. Keep in mind that drinking a sufficient amount of water is a necessary accompaniment to a high-fiber diet because it ensures that the fiber will be pushed through your system.

#3: Vitamin C is Key for Healthy Veins

Perhaps the most important dietary tip for healthy veins is to eat foods that are high in Vitamin C. This is because Vitamin C keeps veins toned and has been proven to help improve circulation. Luckily, many foods that are high in Vitamin P are also good sources of Vitamin C. These include fruits like oranges, oranges, tangerines, mangos, grapefruits and papayas. Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and bell peppers are also rich in Vitamin C. When consumed together with vitamin E, Vitamin C’s effects on veins are said to be even more pronounced. For your daily dose of Vitamin E, reach for almonds, peanuts, or avocado.

#4 Consider Cocoa

Like brightly colored fruits and veggies, cocoa is rich in flavonols. In fact, cocoa flavanols, including epicatechin,  can help people with PAD walk more comfortably. More specifically, cocoa can help target therapy directly to your legs (limb perfusion) and improve cell and muscle regeneration in your legs. So grab a cup of hot cocoa, just make sure it’s cocoa powder with a concentration higher than 85%.

But Skip the Sugar for a Healthy Vein Diet

If you want to protect your vein health, watch your sugar consumption. That’s because processed sugar takes a toll on your blood vessels.

In fact, studies show that built up glucose can make your blood vessels contract more than they should. (It’s part of why diabetics have to worry about their blood flow.) Why does sugar in your blood constrict your vessels? Sugar inflames your nerves and blood vessels. That makes it harder for them to work well, so blood can pool, stretching out your veins and stopping them from closing properly. And those issues can translate to varicose veins, and aching, swollen legs and ankles.

When it comes to your veins, you are what you eat!

The key takeaway here is that preventing varicose veins starts with proper nutrition. The best foods for varicose veins are those rich in bioflavonoids, fiber and vitamins. So if you want healthier veins, replace junk food with a fresh and balanced diet rich in fiber and flavonoids. Add in some exercise (for inspiration, check out our Move it Monday series) and you’ll be on the path to stronger, healthier veins.

Sources: Journal of Circulation Research

Here’s How the Benefits of Chocolate Can Help Arteries!

Maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of chocolate? But, you’re not sure how they can help your life? Well, chocolate lovers, rejoice: science suggests that eating cocoa can improve function in your arteries!

Now, before you grab for the Snickers bars, you’ll want to read more. Not all kinds of chocolate are considered beneficial; the type of chocolate we’ll be talking about in this post is unprocessed, undutched cocoa powder. Let’s take a closer look at what this kind of cocoa can do for your blood vessels: benefits of chocolate

 

Benefits of Chocolate: Cocoa Can Improve Blood Flow

Here’s an exciting fact! Within two hours of eating this kind of cocoa, your coronary arteries start working better. That means the vessels in your eyes are able to dilate more quickly. And what about the vessels in your legs? Well, the impact in that area is even more exciting!

Recently, researchers tested 20 patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease to see how cocoa could affect their ability to walk. Remember, with this condition, narrowed arteries lead to reduced blood flow to your legs. As a result, PAD patients often experience painful leg cramps, especially when they walk or exercise, because their legs don’t receive enough blood and oxygen to support increased activity.

During this study, the PAD patients walked for as long as they could, and stopped when they experienced leg cramps. Then, they were given one of two types of chocolate: unsweetened dark chocolate or milk chocolate. Two hours after eating the milk chocolate, the PAD sufferers were barely able to walk their initial baseline distance. But two hours after having unsweetened cocoa, they walked a dozen yards farther and an average of 17 seconds longer than their baseline distances.

Is it time to become chocoholics?

Because people love chocolate, they also love to go on and on about the benefits of chocolate.  (And it does have many.) BUT, we must also remember that even dark, unsweetened cocoa is packed with fat and calories. So it’s a potentially beneficial treat that should still be enjoyed in moderation.

Having said that, we all need to indulge a little. So, when you’re ready to make a little cheat? If your cravings steer you towards the chocolate aisle, look for the dark stuff and you may just score a little extra time to walk it off pain-free, after you’re done snacking!

Beyond Diet: Other PAD Treatment Options

Diet alone is usually not enough to treat PAD symptoms. (Even with the benefits of chocolate, or other heart-friendly dietary additions.) Now, exercise can certainly help improve blood flow in your body. And walking workouts can be particularly beneficial, as long as you’re medically cleared for this activity.

Still, most people with advanced PAD will need some sort of medical intervention. Fortunately, in our Houston area offices, we can treat PAD with minimally invasive procedures such as Angioplasty, Stenting, and Atherectomy. hat With most of these options, you won’t need an overnight hospital stay, large incisions or open surgery. That means a shorter recovery time without sacrificing the results you’re seeking.

Want relief from PAD pain? We’re here to help! Simply reach out and schedule an appointment with our team. We can assess your PAD risk and help determine your best next steps to preserve your long-term health.

6 PAD Symptoms to Know and Watch For

We recently completed PAD Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to teach you about identifying PAD symptoms. First, a definition: Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a disease. It develops when arteries in your lower legs narrow.

Because many PAD symptoms mimic those of other conditions, this disease is often hard to diagnose. About 20 million Americans have this disease. Even worse? Almost 500,000 people end up in the hospital because of PAD each year. (A number that rose sharply between 2011 and 2017, according to a study from Yale University. Especially for men younger men, under the age of 65.)

On its own, that’s a scary statistic. But here’s a fact that should shake you up further. Up to 200,000 Americans with PAD don’t even know they have it! So, in order to prevent a missed diagnosis, we need you to know and identify PAD symptoms. If you experience any of these problems, it’s important to see your Houston vein specialist right away.

Painful Symptoms of PAD

Muscle pain is one of several symptoms of PAD

  1. Pain in Your Legs After Walking or Exercise. One of the most common symptoms of PAD, this pain or cramping occurs with movement because your lower extremities don’t get enough oxygen to support the increased activity.  Most often, PAD sufferers will experience this pain in their calf muscles, but it may manifest anywhere in the lower legs. Pain will typically not resolve until the PAD sufferer stops all physical activity.
  2. Wounds, Sores or Ulcers. This second symptom is also caused by a lack of oxygen reaching your lower limbs. When you cut yourself, and you don’t have PAD, proper circulation and blood flow will help your injury heal quickly. When you have PAD, however, even a small scrape can remain open and unhealed as the plaque in their arteries blocks blood flow to the wound. This symptom must be addressed immediately: left unchecked, a wound can lead to serious infection and even amputation.

    Physical PAD Warning Signs

  3. Skin Changes on Your Legs. Once again, poor circulation is behind this PAD symptom. Some of the physical changes that occur with PAD include skin that appears to be shiny, loss of leg and/or toe hair, and a blue-ish tinge to your skin. Your lower legs, especially your toes, may also feel cold, even when your feet are covered and should otherwise feel toasty.
  4. Muscle, Not Joint, Pain. We’ve already noted that leg pain and cramps are a symptom of PAD, but it’s important to note where that pain is located. Many people think of leg pain as a normal part of aging, and it CAN be–when that pain is happening in your joints. When it’s located in your muscles, however, that is a sign that something beyond normal aches and pains is going on.
  5. Dead tissue. Most people will identify their PAD before reaching this point, but if you have gangrenous or dead tissue on your toes, feet or legs and you haven’t been checked for PAD, get a diagnostic vein scan ASAP.

    Emotional PAD Symptoms

  6. Depression. Especially for women, your depression symptoms may develop or worsen with PAD. So if you have the symptoms we described above, and depression, it’s time for a PAD check.

If there’s one thing we need you to remember, it’s this: PAD is a progressive disease. If you ignore early warning signs, your symptoms of PAD will get worse. Don’t wait until you’re in pain. Call our Houston area clinics today and schedule an immediate PAD consultation!

 

Sources: Mayoclinic.org , Healio Cardiology 

The Danger of Leaky Veins and Vein Disease!

Did you know that untreated vein disease could lead to leaky veins? And, when you have leaky valves or veins, you may develop edema or vascular congestion, a condition that could cause your feet to turn blue due to constriction in the small blood vessels that feed your extremities?

Well, it’s true, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why we want you to stick with preventative health care. Being proactive about your vein health can help you avoid a medical emergency. This is something New York City mom Tammy Fried learned the hard way. While she was 28 weeks pregnant!

A Scary COVID Vein Story

Back in May 2020, Tammy told the Today show that she woke up feeling something wasn’t right. Soon, she had a nose bleed, and started coughing blood! She called for a virtual emergency room visit, and luckily, got sent to the real hospital immediately!

Once there, doctors discovered that one of her abnormal blood vessels burst. Now, that leaky vein was spilling blood into her lungs. Fortunately, there was an interventional radiologist on call at the hospital. So, he could plug the hole with minimally invasive treatments. And she could avoid surgery, helping her recover. And, two weeks later, deliver her baby boy, now nicknamed Miracle Max!

Of course, we want our patients to avoid emergency situations like Tammy’s. So, if your legs are tired, heavy or cramping, your may need a diagnostic ultrasound from your vein specialist. If that is the case, you may be wondering: how will an ultrasound uncover what’s going on inside my legs? Isn’t that kind of technology more common in Obstetrics offices?

Well, you’re partially correct: interventional radiologists use a different kind of ultrasound to diagnose conditions like Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD.) The technology we use is known as a Doppler ultrasound. And in this post, we’ll teach you how it helps us detect many different kinds of vein disease.

What conditions can a Doppler ultrasound detect?

Doppler ultrasounds check your blood flow. They help us discover whether you have problems like narrowing or leaky veins or blockages in your blood vessels.

This type of ultrasound uses sound waves to check how well blood flows through your legs. Those waves bounce off your moving blood cells, giving your doctors a better picture of the speed and health of your blood flow. Doppler ultrasounds involve hand-held devices; screenings are pain free and non-invasive.

Using a Doppler ultrasound, vein specialists can detect disruptions in your blood flow, hardening of your arteries and even potentially life threatening conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that develops in the deep veins of your legs that rest well below the skin’s surface.

When should I get a Doppler ultrasound?

We may recommend an ultrasound if there are signs that your blood flow has been reduced. These symptoms can include changes in the appearance of the skin on your legs, leg pain that appears with movement, hair loss on your legs or even wounds that won’t heal.

If you’ve had a blood clot, or we suspect you have one, a Doppler ultrasound can quickly confirm this diagnosis.

We may also recommend a Doppler ultrasound if you’ve recently had a stroke or heart attack. That way, we can determine whether compromised blood flow or clots may be putting you at risk for a repeat problem.

What’s involved in a diagnostic ultrasound for leaky veins?

You’ll typically lie down for your ultrasound. Your ultrasound technician may measure pressure in certain areas of your body by apply blood pressure cuffs at points like your ankles, calves or thighs.

Next, your technician will apply lubricant to the  ultarasound guide (called a transducer). Then he or she will move the device over your skin until we receive a good image of your blood flow.  A Doppler ultrasound typically takes up to 45 minutes. Once it’s done, you are usually free to get up and go back to your daily activities.

When you have an ultrasound in our Houston area vein clinics, your results will be reviewed and delivered to you by one of our highly trained team members. If a problem is detected, we will then take the time to discuss and explain your diagnosis, and walk you through all your possible treatment options.

Sounds like an easy way to prevent medical emergencies, right? That’s because it is! So don’t wait another day, worrying that your damaged veins may leak. Instead, schedule an appointment with our team today. We’ll give you a better picture of your health, and protect you from problems that could already be developing!

 

5 Signs Your Leg Pain is Actually PAD

Peripheral Arterial Disease is a tricky condition. Its symptoms look like many other vein health problems. Meaning you often wait to get your diagnosis. Take a classic symptom like tired, heavy legs, for example. At some point, everyone’s legs get tired. If you’ve walked a lot during the day, had a hard work out, or just been stuck on your feet, you may get muscle cramps or leg fatigue. And that would be perfectly normal. Sometimes, however, that discomfort in your legs could be something more serious: peripheral arterial disease, a condition in which plaque narrows your arteries, limiting blood flow to your lower extremities. Here’s how you can tell when your leg pain is a cause for concern. And a roundup of other warning signs and symptoms that could indicate trouble with your blood flow.

5 PAD Warning Signs to Watch For

PAD-affected arteries before, during and after minimally invasive treatments
  1. The leg pain is constant. Normal leg pain only comes on once in a while. But if your legs hurt or you feel a burning sensation in your legs or rear end every time you walk or climb the stairs, it could be PAD. This is especially true if your discomfort shows up with movement and resolves with rest. That’s a likely sign of a problem, since your limited blood flow makes it painful to move, because that movement needs oxygenated blood, and your body can’t supply it.
  2. Your wounds don’t heal. Because PAD limits blood flow to your lower legs, it reduces the healing time for any cuts or injuries. So even a little scratch could become a major health challenge, since oxygen-rich blood doesn’t arrive to help with healing. If you have leg pain and an ulcer, that’s a likely sign that you’ve got PAD.
  3. Your hair growth changes. When blockages limit blood flow to your legs, that alters the way your hair cells function in the area. And that means your leg hair growth will slow or stop. Or you may even notice hairless patches on your legs.
  4. Your legs and feet are cold. Now, this symptom could be a sign of poor circulation. But if the problem is chronic, instead of problem that arises from time to time, it could be a sign of PAD.
  5. Your lifestyle puts you at risk. Smokers, people with diabetes, or individuals with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at higher risk of developing PAD. (Remember, cholesterol is a fatty substance your liver produces. You need some cholesterol for your body to function. But choose the ‘bad’ kind, or allow cholesterol levels to rise too high, and it can form blood-flow blocking ‘plaque’ in your arteries.) If you have these risk factors and experience regular leg pain, be sure to get checked for PAD. At our Houston-area vein clinics, we can help you get an accurate diagnosis so we can begin the healing process.

Treating Peripheral Arterial Disease in Houston

The above symptoms aren’t all you need to watch out for. Other signs of PAD include cold, numb legs and feet; changes in your skin color; poor toenail growth; changes in your leg-hair growth; and even erectile dysfunction in men.

We can diagnose PAD in our office with a bedside test called an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), which uses ultrasound and blood pressure cuffs to evaluate the circulation in your arms and legs. If this test is abnormal we may order further imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) or Computed Tomography (CT) to determine the extent of your problem and help us plan your treatment.

PAD is a serious medical condition, but help is readily available, often without surgery. Using minimally invasive procedures, our Houston area vein specialists can help open up your arteries and restore blood flow to your lower extremities. But before we can help, you need an accurate diagnosis, so watch for warning signs and see your doctor right away if you have any cause for concern.

 

Sources: American College of Surgeons, galesburg.com

Why did my feet turn darker than the rest of my skin?

Have you noticed the skin on your feet turn darker than other areas of your skin? Are you concerned that this may be a cause for concern? Well, if you are–you’re right! Darkening skin in your feet can be a sign of several different vein conditions. And all of them should be brought to your doctor’s attention.

Why Feet Turn Darker Changes in skin color, when feet turn darker, is a warning for vein disease

For light skinned individuals, several things can cause your feet to turn darker. In fact, feet that are darker than the rest of your skin can be a side effect of varicose veins. When you have varicose veins (incompetent veins that aren’t functioning properly) blood pools in your legs. And that leads to swelling–both in your veins and possibly in your legs themselves. In some instances, red blood cells may leak outside the varicose veins. These cells carry some red pigment that, over time, may turn black in color. When these cells end up in your feet, they may contribute to the darker skin color.

While an abundance of red blood cells may cause your feet to change color, lack of blood flow may also affect the appearance of your feet. As plaque builds up in our bodies due to fat and cholesterol, a condition known as Peripheral Arterial Diesease (PAD) may set in. PAD occurs when plaque sticks to your arteries, narrowing them significantly and thus affecting blood flow throughout your body. With PAD, less oxygen-rich blood may reach your feet. In contrast to skin darkening related to varicose veins, color changes related to PAD are unlikely to be accompanied by swelling. Additionally, your dark feet are likely to feel cold or even numb.

Smoking and Changes in Skin Color

While internal factors can certainly contribute to changes in the color of your feet, it’s also important to examine problems in your own habits. Smokers especially may notice marked changes in their skin color:

  1. Chemicals in cigarettes speed up the aging process, often leaving smokers with uneven skin tone.
  2. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, restricting oxygen and blood flow to your extremities. This makes smoking especially dangerous for people with vein conditions that already affect blood flow.
  3. Smokers’ wounds take longer to heal. If you smoke, have diabetes and notice your feet turning black, you may be dealing with a dangerous ulcer you haven’t even noticed.

    Cancer, Eczema and Other Potential Culprits

    While all these factors are less common, they could also change the color of your feet. Eczema, when it manifests on your feet can change the color of your skin tone. Another condition called venous eczema, or stasis dermatitis, can also change the color of your feet or legs.  With this inflammatory skin condition, your legs, ankles and feet may swell or show signs of inflammation. Aside from changing color, affected skin can feel dry, irritated and itchy.

    Stasis dermatitis may develop with chronic venous insufficiency, or circulatory problems. But it’s not the only health concern that can change your leg color. Because Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in lymph and blood vessels, can also make the skin on your feet appear darker due to the lesions that characterize this condition.

Houston Specialists Treating Feet That Turn Darker

Regardless of the reason for the change, when the skin on your feet turns dramatically darker, it should be cause for more than just cosmetic concern. All of the things that change the color of the feet will need medical attention, so this is one symptom you should never dismiss or ignore.

Now, when you come in for your vein consultation, your specialist will give you treatment options. You’ve got many choices when you want to treat varicose veins. But one choice, sclerotherapy, probably won’t be an option. You see, sclerotherapy is mostly a cosmetic treatment.

Of course, this is a great option if all you want is younger looking legs. It’s very effective when you’re dealing with spider veins, but not when you have varicose veins. And, if your feet turn darker, your disease is likely more serious. So you’ll need greater interventions to improve your health, and your leg and foot appearance.

Ready to make a big step towards reversing the skin damage of varicose veins? Come into our office right away. We’ll conduct a thorough examination and figure out your next best course of action.

Sources: Flux Magazine

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