Category: Vein Disease

Why You Can’t Ignore These 7 Reasons Your Feet Swell

In our Houston area vein clinics, we see many people with edema—which is swelling due to 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. However, if your legs are swollen and you don’t know why, you need to take action. First, rule out the causes we’re about to review. And if none of those make sense, come and see us for a diagnostic vein ultrasound. Because, even now, even in the time of COVID-19, it’s just not safe to ignore your vein health.

7 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.

  6. You’re Developing a DVT

    In the beginning stages of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), your legs are sore and often swollen. Remember, a DVT is a blood clot in your deep leg veins, and it’s a medical emergency. That’s because if your clot breaks free and travels to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), your condition becomes life-threatening. Therefore, if you have any DVT risk factors (long air travel, pregnancy, smoking, taking oral birth control or medical history of clotting) and your feet swell, see your vein specialist immediately.

  7. You’ve Got Arthritis

    Your joints are inflamed when you have arthritis. And, sometimes, this inflammation causes swelling, especially around your ankles or big toe (gout.) If you’ve noticed localized swelling and feel stiff or achy, you should consult with a joint specialist as soon as possible.

 

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.

Sources: The World Beast

Eat This Now: Your Guide to Healthy Veins

Did you know that your body’s circulatory system stretches over 60,000 miles long? It 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

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. 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

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%.

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 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

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. 20

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.

 

Sources: American Heart Association

 

New Stem Cell Discovery May Help Cure Vein Disease

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

New Veins Could Transform Circulatory Treatments

Vein disease sufferers will obviously benefit from newly-grown veins. But so will other people. In fact, this development would improve treatments for heart disease. It could also help manage circulatory conditions like peripheral arterial disease.

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

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

Moving Forward with Embryo Research

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

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

Sources: University College London, Nature Magazine

PAD vs. CVD: This is How You Tell the Difference

When you are experiencing leg pain, it can be difficult to know what’s causing your discomfort. That’s because two different conditions—Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) and Chronic Venous Disease (CVD) can make your legs hurt. So, how can you tell the difference between these problems? Just keep reading for our handy guide!

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

PAD is a condition in which your arteries harden because of plaque build-up on the walls. This hardening narrows your arteries, making it more difficult for blood to flow through. And when this happens, you may experience symptoms in your legs, including: pain, numbness, or heaviness. These symptoms typically appear when you are active, and usually resolve when you rest.

What is Chronic Venous Disease?

Chronic Venous Disease is a way of describing conditions that develop when your veins aren’t functioning properly. These include varicose veins, ulcers, and edema. But, sometimes, venous disease shows up in less obvious ways. In fact, many symptoms of CVD are very similar to those associated with PAD. So, the question remains, how can you tell the difference between the two?

Ruling out PAD as a Diagnosis

Because PAD symptoms are so similar to those associated with CVD, it can be difficult to diagnose. But here’s the key factor to note when you talk to your doctor. When you have PAD, you will likely only experience symptoms like leg pain and heaviness when you are active. If you have Venous Disease, resting will likely not improve your symptoms. Also, when you have CVD, visible symptoms like spider veins will usually show up fairly quickly.

Finally, timing can be a major clue as well. With CVD, leg pain tends to show up at the end of a long day. Especially if you spent extended periods on your feet. But, with PAD, pain shows up day or night, and, as we mentioned, is typically tied to movement.

Of course, the easiest and best way to determine the cause of your leg pain is to see your vein specialist. But, clearly identifying your symptoms can help your healthcare provider quickly reach a diagnosis. So, take note of your symptoms and make an appointment today for a diagnostic ultrasound.

 

Sources: veinforum.org, Cardiovascular Institute of the South

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

A message regarding COIVD-19

We are keeping a close eye on COVID-19 developments in the greater Houston area, and encourage you to do the same.

To ensure that our patients are able to receive the care they need, Texas Endovascular/Houston Fibroids will remain open and accessible. Because we are not a primary care or hospital environment where sick patients would go for testing or treatment for COVID-19, we feel that the risk of exposure in our office is low. To supplement our rigorous standard precautions for health and safety, please refer to the following guidelines:

Please refer to the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the most current information. The CDC reminds us to follow best practices, including washing hands often with soap and water, not touching our eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and limiting personal contact, including shaking hands. Learn more about the CDC recommendations here.

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