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Category: Vein Disease

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.

Why 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.

Why would I get an arterial blood clot or a 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

·         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 or stroke

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.

 

Here’s 5 Reasons Your Feet Get Swollen

In our Houston area vein clinics, we see many people with edema—swelling that’s a result of fluid build-up. Most of the patients we see for edema have swelling in their legs or feet; it’s because fluid has become trapped in the soft tissues of their legs due to malfunctioning valves in their veins.

If you have swollen legs or feet, the edema could be a symptom of vein disease: when the valves in your leg veins weaken or fail, the blood can no longer be pumped properly out of your legs. This causes blood and fluid to stick around and, as the fluid builds up, your leg may begin to swell—hence, edema.

Now this is the primary cause of swelling in a vein clinic, but other factors may leave you with edema as well. But, if your legs are swollen and you’ve ruled out the following potential causes, it’s a good idea to come and see us for a diagnostic ultrasound to rule out vein disease.

5 Reasons Your Feet Swell That Aren’t Vein Disease

Already ruled out these potential causes? It’s time to see your vein doc. Otherwise, check and see if:

 

  1. You’ve spent a long time flying or driving

    As it turns out, you can develop vein-disease like symptoms from sitting too long. That’s because your veins get less effective at pushing blood up to your heart, allowing it to pool and making your feet swell up. Why? The problem is sitting: it limits your muscle contractions, making it harder for blood to move. But the position also pushes on your veins, which further reduces the blood flow…and, voila, edema!

  2. Your Lifestyle is Sedentary

    When you don’t exercise, your circulatory system can become compromised. Especially if you’re also carrying extra weight around. Bring those two factors together, and swollen feet and legs may be the result.

  3. You’ve Been Slamming Salty Snacks

    This cause of edema actually has nothing to do with your blood flow. Plain and simple—salt makes you retain water. And if that water sticks around your feet and legs, they get swollen!

  4. You’re Hurt

    When you’re dealing with injuries in your feet or ankles—whether it’s an acute issue like a sprain or fracture, or an overuse injury like shin splints—swelling may ensue. And while this may look like edema, the symptom is completely unrelated, and will only disappear when your underlying injury is treated.

  5. You’re Taking A New Medication

    Some medications can cause fluid retention or swelling in your legs, ankles or feet. So if your edema appears shortly after starting a new drug—especially for conditions like high blood pressure—check in with your prescribing doctor to see if the two are connected.

 

Now we’ve thoroughly explored non-vascular edema triggers. So, we have to remind you: lots of times, this symptom is an indication of problems in your veins. And that means that, if you’ve got swollen legs and you’re not sure why, go and see an experienced vein specialist to get a diagnosis.

This is What Happens to Veins as you Age

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.

Other symptoms include:

·        Sore, tired, restless and/or heavy legs

·        Pain or fatigue

·        Blood clots, especially Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

·        Leg, foot or ankle swelling (edema)

·        Hard, thickened skin

·        Changes in skin color

 

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.

Move it Monday: Hot Workouts to Prevent Vein Disease

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!)

 

workouts to prevent veinsWalking 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:

  • If your family has a history of vein disease
  • If you are over 45
  • If you are a woman
  • If you are pregnant
  • If you are overweight
  • If you sit for the majority of the day or stand for the majority of the day

If any of these apply, you’ll want to get started on a vein-healthy workout routine. Make sure to discuss any changes in your activity routine with a doctor before starting a new exercise program!

Sources: nyulangone.org

These Two Things Raise a Women’s Blood Clot Risk

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 Varicose Veins & Pregnancy: What You Need to Do (and Why You Shouldn’t Worry)

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
  • Smoking
  • High BMIs
  • In-vitro fertilization

For post-partum VTEs, risk factors included:

  • Emergency c-sections
  • Still births
  • Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • Varicose veins 
  • Post-partum infection

New VTE Risk Factors Identified

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

Why do I get Ulcers on my Lower Legs?

lower-leg-ulcers

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.

Venous Ulcers

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.

Sources: Circulation Foundation

Move It Monday: Walking Workout

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.

Frequent exercise, like taking walks, can help manage the pain of PAD

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.

 

Sources: www.verywellfit.com

3 Great Reasons to Rock Compression Socks

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

Choosing The Right Compression Therapy
Compression stockings don’t have to look like this anymore…there are many patterns and colors to choose from!
  1. 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!

 

Sources: webmd.com, riteaid.com

Venous Insufficiency: What You Need to Know

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.

Deep Vein Thrombosis
Tired, achy legs are actually a symptom of vein disease!

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:

  • Heavy legs
  • Throbbing or dull aches in the legs
  • Swollen legs and ankles
  • Itchy, cramped legs
  • Changes in skin color—especially dark patches
  • Thickened ankle skin
  • Ulcers
  • Spider veins
  • Blood clots

What Causes CVI?

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing CVI:

  • A family history of the condition
  • Past blood clots
  • Varicose veins
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • 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:

Medications

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.