Want to hear a scary statistic? By the time they turn 60, up to 20% of Americans develop peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a condition that affects blood flow to your lower limbs. Also, at the time when they turn 40, 20 % of American men and 40% of American women have some sort of problem with their leg veins. So, what do these numbers add up to?
The older you get, the more likely you are to develop some type of vein or arterial disease. Which means you really need to understand the variety of conditions that can affect your vein, and start exploring your treatment options—before problems start developing!
What causes PAD and vein disease?
PAD is most often a result of atherosclerosis, a slow process during which a fatty material (plaque) builds up in your arteries, reducing blood flow. Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol all increase your PAD risk, but so does age. In fact, passing the 50 year mark, and having a family history of PAD, heart disease or stroke, are two key risk factors for this dangerous condition.
Symptoms of PAD include:
Muscle pain, leg cramps, or heaviness when walking (this typically resolves after a few minutes of rest.)
· Calf pain
· Numbness or weakness
· Pain in your buttocks
· Cold legs and feet
· Leg and/or foot ulcers
· Hair loss or slower hair growth
Now, let’s take a look at chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This condition occurs when the valves of your leg veins stop working well, making it harder for blood to flow up to your heart. Instead, that blood can pool up in your legs, leaving you with symptoms like bulging, noticeable varicose veins.
While PAD and CVI can strike anyone, at any time, the older you are, the higher your risk of developing either condition. So, if you’ve noticed a change in the way your legs feel, and your 40th birthday has passed, it’s a good idea to schedule a diagnostic ultrasound to rule out or diagnose a developing vein or arterial condition.
If you are planning to have varicose or spider veins removed with the minimally invasive procedures available at Texas Endovascular, there are a few things you can do to ensure recovery and the best outcome after your treatment, including wearing compression socks.
There are so many reasons why you develop varicose and spider veins. In fact, your genes may be upping your risk! Even so, you can be proactive about prevention. Just a few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way towards preventing these veins from developing. Whether you are starting to see the early signs of varicose or spider veins, or you hope to prevent them altogether, certain workouts can promote healthy veins. Why not make these last few weeks of summer your time to sweat some vein-preventing workouts (and show off those healthy legs with pride!)
Walking workouts for your veins
Taking a walk or hike is one of the best ways to give your legs a workout and improve circulation in your legs. Walking is a great low-impact exercise that can strengthen your calf muscles and minimize spider or varicose veins.
Try talking a stroll through your neighborhood, find a nearby greenway to walk on, or plan a hike. If you’re wanting a more rigorous workout, a run will also improve circulation and get more blood returning to your heart, which can help prevent varicose veins.
Ride your bike to smoother legs
Riding a bike is another exercise that works out your legs and promotes healthy veins. Bonus? It doesn’t put too much stress on your joints, and as you pedal, your calf muscles flex, giving your veins a rest and helping circulate blood back to the heart.
You can ride a stationary bike, a regular bike, or just mimic the pedaling motion while lying on the floor, and still improve your vein health.
Try Swimming or Water Aerobics
The buoyancy of water means that swimming and water aerobics don’t put stress on your joints while still providing cardiovascular benefits. The water resistance will also help workout your leg muscles even more and improve circulation.
Try swimming laps at a pool, join a nearby organization that offers water aerobics classes, or go for a swim at a lake or beach.
Preventing Varicose Veins
Risk factors that increase your chance of suffering from vein disease include:
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that develops when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of your legs. As it circulates through them, there is a risk that the blood clot will break free and become lodged in your lungs (pulmonary embolism), which is a potentially fatal complication.
When pregnant women develop clots in the deep veins of their legs, groin or arms, the condition is called Venous Thromboembolism (VTE). While the name is different, the danger to your lungs is the same, which is why VTE during pregnancy and post-partum is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths.
What We Know About VTE
Until recently, only a few VTE risk factors had been identified. During pregnancy these included:
A previous episode of VTE
A relative with a previous VTE episode
Advanced maternal age
For post-partum VTEs, risk factors included:
Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
Now, thanks to a study in Japan, two new VTE risk factors have been identified: Endometriosis and recurring miscarriages. To reach these findings, the study authors reviwed data from 103,070 pregnant Japanese women, collected between January 2011 and March 2014. Participants completed questionnaires in their first, second and/or third trimester, and their medical records were then transcribed immediately after delivery and one month post-partum.
First, researchers found that the frequency of VTE in the Japanese population was 7.5 per 10,000 pregnancies during both the pregnancy and post-partum period.
After identifying previous known risk factors, and adjusting for their presence, researchers were able to discover two new predictors for VTE: the presence of endometriosis and recurrent pregnancy loss. Women with endometriosis were 2.7 times more likely to develop VTE; women with multiple miscarriages had a risk factor that was 6.13 times higher.
Pregnancy with VTE Risk Factors
Knowing your risk for VTE is important, since pregnant women with one or more predictors may need to take precautionary measures. In fact, VTE is such a dangerous complication, at-risk pregnant women may need to take anti-coagulants (with the supervision of and recommendation from their physicians.) To learn more about managing VTE and other venous conditions, schedule a consultation with our Houston vein specialists.
Sources: Thieme, the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis
An ulcer is an open sore that does not heal or is recurrent. Ulcers can develop on your lower legs, most often around the ankles, or wherever there is consistent pressure on the foot. If they are small, they can be quickly treated, and we can keep them from returning. But if an ulcer is left to grow deeper into the skin tissue, or if it becomes infected, treatment will likely be drastic–and expensive.
How does a lower leg ulcer develop? Are there different kinds of ulcers? Read on to get a better understanding of ulcers, their treatment options and the best methods of prevention.
The most common ulcers of the lower leg are venous ulcers. These occur when veins in the leg do not return blood back to the heart, a condition called chronic venous insufficiency. The unreturned blood pools in the leg tissue, causing swelling and low oxygen levels. As a result, a simple wound is unable to heal and becomes larger, leading to venous stasis ulceration.
Venous ulcers range from being painless to quite painful over time. They usually develop just above the ankle and on the inner leg. A telling sign of a venous ulcer is a brown, rust-colored pigmentation. Once it develops, the ulcer is red in color and possibly tinted with yellow fibrous tissue. A green or yellow discharge is also possible if it is infected. The surrounding skin might be warm and appear shiny and tight.
Venous ulcers usually affect older patients with a history of vein disease, varicose veins, and blood clotting. The fundamental cause is poor circulation, which can be brought on a number of ways, from atherosclerosis, obesity, heart disease, or smoking. Genetics, certain medications, and simply standing or sitting for too long on a daily basis can also factor in.
Diabetic and Arterial Ulcers
Though much less common, diabetic (neurotrophic) and arterial (ischemic) ulcers can be equally dangerous if left untreated. Their cause, appearance, location, and treatment are different from venous ulcers, so it is important to have an expert diagnose them. If left untreated and infected, they can lead to amputation.
Diabetic or neurotrophic ulcers are a result of an impaired sensation in the feet and decrease in wound healing, usually from diabetic nerve damage. They occur at pressure points on the bottom of the feet or wherever a wound has formed. Because of the lack of sensation, the patient is often unaware of them. It is important that diabetic patients inspect their feet daily. They can be pink/red or brown/black with a punched out or calloused/cracked border.
Arterial or ischemic ulcers on the other hand are extremely painful and caused by arterial disease, like atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). They are unable to heal because of lack of blood in the tissue due to poor circulation. They often develop on the feet, especially the toes, and occasionally on the ankles. Their appearance is yellow, brown, gray, or black. They usually do not bleed. Like diabetic ulcers, the surrounding skin appears punched out. The pain is greatest at night and can be relieved by dangling the legs off the bed.
Treatments and Prevention
Venous ulcers can be treated in a variety of ways, most commonly with compression treatments. Lifting the legs above the heart whenever possible also helps. It is important to treat the underlying cause of the ulcer, too, to prevent recurrence. For venous ulcers, this includes closure of the abnormal veins causing venous insufficiency with ablation therapy.
For arterial ulcers, a proper diagnosis must be made to determine the potential for wound healing. Compression therapy does not work for arterial ulcers and can make them worse. Treatments involve attempting to re-vascularize the leg through endovascular therapy. Treatment for neuropathic ulcers include debridement or removal of infected tissue, avoiding pressure on the ulcerated leg, and special shoes to prevent contact irritation.
Ulcers of the lower leg can be prevented by checking your ankles and legs daily for early signs of ulceration. This is key to getting the preventative treatment you need. Taking daily walks, eating healthier, quitting smoking, and anything that improves overall circulation will go a long way in preventing ulcers and venous/heart conditions.
How to Treat Your Ulcer at the Source
Whether you need an accurate diagnosis for your lower leg ulcer, or need treatment, Texas Endovascular has the vein expertise necessary to help. Schedule an appointment with us today and we’ll get you on the path to recovery.
We know that maintaining a regular (physician approved) exercise program can help you slow the progression of vein disease, while also lowering your risk of experiencing associated complications, but we also know that it can be tough to get started.
To help you get motivated, our Texas Endovascular Team regularly shares Move it Monday fitness inspiration! If you like it what you see, incorporate the workout in to your routine! Not your jam? Come back another time for more motivation!
On the schedule this week: A Beginner’s Walking Schedule, courtesy of VeryWellFit.com: Before beginning, check your posture to make sure your chin is up, you’re standing straight, and you’re not leaning forward or backward while you move. Walk at an easy pace for a few minutes before speeding up. Wear supportive shoes and comfy clothing. You can do your walking outdoors, indoors, or on a treadmill.
The Right Way to Begin a Walking Workout Program
Week 1: Start with a daily 15-minute walk at an easy pace. Walk five days the first week. You want to build a habit, so consistency is important. Spread out your rest days, such as making day 3 a rest day and day 6 a rest day.
Weekly total goal: 60 to 75 minutes.
Week 2: Add five minutes a day so you are walking for 20 minutes, five days a week. Or, you may wish to extend yourself more on some days, followed by a rest day.
Weekly total goal: 75 to 100 minutes.
Week 3: Add five minutes a day so you are walking for 25 minutes, five days a week.
Weekly total goal: 100 to 125 minutes.
Week 4: Add five minutes a day to walk for 30 minutes, five days a week.
Weekly total goal: 125 to 150 minutes.
Snags: If you find any week to be difficult, repeat that week rather than adding more time. Do this until you are able to progress comfortably.
As always, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise programs. If you have any questions about your ability to exercise with an endovascular condition, come in to our offices for a consultation with Dr. Fox or Dr. Hardee.
For many people, the words “compression socks” bring to mind images of your grandmother’s awful stockings. It may make you want to run for your fashion life, directly in the opposite direction. But here’s the thing: compression stockings are very useful medical tools when it comes to managing your vein health. So it’s important to wear them when your doctors suggests it. So, in case you need a little extra push toward the compression stocking aisle, here are three great reasons to wear these most useful articles of clothing!
Three Compelling Reasons to Wear Compression Socks
They could save your life. Compression stockings put pressure on your leg, and that pressure pushes blood from the bottom of your legs into the deep venous system, helping blood return to your heart. Because of this, compression stockings are great tools for managing many types of vein disease. They can reduce or even eliminate edemas (swelling of the leg, ankles or feet) and can help reduce the risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a potentially deadly condition that often develops without any warning signs.)2. They can keep varicose veins from getting worse.
Varicose veins emerge when valves in your veins fail, allowing blood to pool. This pooling blood can cause your veins to bulge or darken in color, which is the point at which they become visible through your skin. Because compression stockings promote the return of blood from your legs to your heart, they can help prevent blood pooling and prevent new varicose veins from developing, or existing ones from getting worse.
3. These days, compression stockings are so cute!
Back in your grandmother’s day, compression stockings were, admittedly, unattractive. In 2019, however, compression stockings come in an array of colors, sizes and prints. Basically, there’s a pair to fit every person’s individual style AND medical needs. So, basically, using the “ugly” excuse to avid compression stockings is no longer an option.
Vein disease can make your legs less attractive, but compression stockings can manage your symptoms AND help you look cute while doing so! Looking for a recommendation on a great pair of stockings? We’ve got so many options in our Houston area offices. Stop on by and check them out!
CVI, or chronic venous insufficiency, is a condition in which the valves in your veins don’t work properly. This makes it difficult for the veins in your legs to carry blood back to your heart.
CVI is actually quite a common condition, affecting up to 40% of people in the U.S. Because it is a chronic problem, it can lead to other side effects like, swelling of the legs and feet pain in your legs and spider veins.
Symptoms of CVI
Some symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include:
Throbbing or dull aches in the legs
Swollen legs and ankles
Itchy, cramped legs
Changes in skin color—especially dark patches
Thickened ankle skin
What Causes CVI?
Certain factors may increase your risk of developing CVI:
A family history of the condition
Past blood clots
Long periods of sitting or standing
How do We Treat CVI?
Depending on the severity of your condition, and your individual health profile, your treatment for CVI will differ. Only your vein specialist can determine the right course of treatment. There are, however, several common courses of treatment that we should review:
Some medications may help you manage CVI symptoms by working to improve the flow of blood within your vessels. These include:
Duretics, because they remove excess fluid from your body, reducing the volume that has to flow through your vesses.
Anti-inflammatories like pentoxifylline
Anti-coagulants or blood thinners, which prevent blood clots and keep your blood in a condition for optimal flow.
Measures You Can Take to Prevent CVI:
If you’re beginning to notice symptoms of CVI, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor and schedule a diagnostic vein scan. After that, try some of these steps:
Wear compression stockings. These special elastic socks or tights apply pressure to your lower leg and foot, reducing any swelling you may be experiencing and improving blood flow to the area.
Put your feet up. By elevating your feet to a level above your heart, you can help your body move the blood out of your legs and back to where it belongs.
Protect your skin. People with CVI are more prone to skin infections like dermatitis or cellulitis. To protect yourself against these conditions, you should regularly moisturize your skin to prevent dryness and flaking. Make sure to exfoliate your skin regularly to get rid of dead cells and follow your vein specialists instructions regarding any prescription ointments you may need to incorporate into your skin care routine.
When you first get pregnant, people will prepare you for a lot of things. From nausea and cravings to fatigue and mood swings, chances are you probably think you’ve heard it all. If only that were true.
For as many as 70% of expectant mothers, varicose veins can come as a somewhat frightening surprise. After all, the last thing you want to see during your pregnancy are unexpected (and unwanted) surprises on your body! However, there’s no need to worry: while varicose veins may be uncomfortable, they are not dangerous for you or your pregnancy. Learn more about what causes varicose veins during pregnancy, and what you can do to solve the problem safely.
Where Do Varicose Veins Come from?
Varicose veins around the legs, breasts, rectum, and vulva are a very common side effect of pregnancy. Because it now has another being to support, your body produces more blood during pregnancy, which can result in added pressure on your blood vessels. This effect is particularly pronounced near your lower body, as your legs are responsible for working against gravity to deliver the extra blood to your heart. This blood also moves more slowly than normal, increasing the pressure placed on the veins and causing them to bulge. In addition to bulging veins, the extra blood has been known to cause hemorrhoids and swollen vulva. Increased production of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy is also a contributing factor to the development of varicose veins.
What You Can Do About Varicose Veins
While your varicose veins pose no risk to you or your child during pregnancy, they are unsightly and can be somewhat painful. Fortunately, there are plenty of safe, all-natural options for alleviating discomfort until they recede naturally.
Elevate Your Legs: When you have some time to lie down and relax, try to elevate your legs above your heart for about 15 minutes. This will help the blood recirculate appropriately, and is most effective if done at least three or four times a day. To maintain results, consider wearing compression stockings during the day.
Stay Mobile: While being pregnant can zap your energy, staying active is essential to preventing and alleviating varicose veins. Hardcore gym trips aren’t necessary; simply work in a few walks or some light cardio each day to promote stronger circulation during pregnancy.
Sleep On Your Left Side: While it might take some getting used to, sleeping on your left side comes with a number of health benefits, including the reduction of varicose veins and an increase in blood flow to the fetus. Sleeping on your left side reduces the amount of pressure put on the vena cava, your body’s largest vein, which is located on the right side of your body.
Take Your Vitamins: A healthy diet rich in vitamin C can work wonders for improving vein health during pregnancy, by providing your body with the tools it needs to generate collagen and repair damaged blood vessels.
“I’ve Given Birth, but My Varicose Veins Won’t Go Away!”
In most cases, varicose veins fade on their own once pregnancy has ended…but sometimes, that just isn’t the case. While surgical vein treatments are not safe during pregnancy, they could be your best option for removing varicose veins after you’ve welcomed your child.
If you’re ready to fight back against varicose veins, Texas Endovascular offers a number of varicose treatment options to ensure that you receive the right results for your exact needs. Our procedures are minimally invasive, require only local anesthesia, and can be performed conveniently in-office. Discover what Texas Endovascular can do for your post-pregnancy body, and schedule your consultation today.
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.) While many women, and some men, complain about the way cankles look, it turns out that they could be a sign of more serious health issues.
What Causes My Ankles to Swell?
Swollen, puffy ankles are symptoms of several potentially serious vein conditions.
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
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 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.
How and When to Treat Your Cankles
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!