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!
You know how people always say that men make the worst patient? Turns out, that may actually be true! Statistically, men are less likely than women to seek treatment for what they perceive as minor health issues. And, since many people think of varicose veins as a simple cosmetic problem, men are unlikely to seek medical attention for these bulging veins.
This thinking could be problematic, however, since varicose veins aren’t just ugly: they can be a sign of more serious medical conditions like chronic venous disease (CVD). For that reason, vein-related health issues should not be taken lightly or dismissed as cosmetic problems. If left untreated, they can actually cause life-threatening health complications.
Varicose Veins are not a Gender Issue
Varicose veins affect men and women of all ages–while older individuals are more susceptible, they can develop at any age. Varicose veins occur when blood pools in the veins of your lower extremities, causing them to stretch out. Over time, the veins stop returning to their normal size, leaving them swollen and bumpy enough to be visible through your skin. As the condition progresses, the veins can become so swollen that valves restricting blood flow no longer meet to close completely, and blood is allowed to flow back through them in the wrong direction.
As mentioned above, varicose veins are more common in seniors, due to the loss of tissue and muscle mass and weakening of venous walls that naturally occurs with age, but they can strike at any age, and are very common in men. In fact, approximately 45 percent of men will have varicose veins at some point in their life.
The likelihood of developing varicose veins is higher if you have a family history of vein-related health issues. Standing for long periods during the day and sitting for too long also increases the risk of varicose veins. Symptoms of chronic venous disease include heaviness, pain, cramps, and swelling in the legs, and can be a major hindrance to daily activities.
Health Risks of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are often the first sign of a serious, progressive condition called venous disease. Varicose veins can progress to cause swelling in the legs and hyperpigmentation (skin darkening) in the ankle area, caused by blood pooling in the veins. When this occurs, it is not unusual to develop painful, debilitating ulcers in the skin above the ankles on the inside of the leg.
Varicose veins also put you at risk for blood clots, ulcers, and other painful and dangerous conditions. When blood pools in the legs as a result of varicose veins, it can easily develop into phlebitis, a superficial but painful blood clot that is not usually life threatening. However, if left untreated, phlebitis can worsen and grow into deep veins, where pieces of the clot may break off and move through the blood stream. Traveling bits of blood clots may become lodged in the lungs and cause a life-threatening blockage called a pulmonary embolism.
While a greater percentage of women get varicose veins than men, men often develop more severe cases. This is largely because men frequently ignore the signs of vein problems until they experience significant discomfort, while women are more likely to seek treatment before dangerous complications have a chance to arise.
For minor cases, wearing compression socks is often enough to keep blood from pooling in the veins and keep it moving back to the heart. Physical activity should be performed regularly to improve blood flow, and it may be necessary to reduce the sodium in your diet to prevent a relapse. Men who have started noticing signs of varicose veins should consult a doctor right away while treatment is still as simple as switching to a different type of socks.
In more severe cases of varicose veins, it may be necessary to have veins treated with lasers in a process called laser ablation. In this quick outpatient procedure, energy is applied through a laser fiber inserted into the vein to collapse and seal it shut, which causes blood to be diverted into healthy veins nearby instead. The procedure is generally painless and takes about thirty minutes. Afterward you can return to work and resume normal activities almost immediately.
So listen up guys: if you suspect you may have varicose veins or venous disease, contact Texas Endovascular today to schedule an appointment. Don’t push off a consult: if you wait until your varicose veins progress, you may find yourself dealing with a more serious, potentially life-threatening condition.
When you have venous insufficiency (or VI, a condition in which your veins fail to circulate blood properly, especially to your lower extremities), troubling symptoms may start to develop. One common side effect of VI is edema (swelling) of the lower legs. And when you experience edema for an extended period of time, you are more susceptible to venous ulcers, open wounds that develop on your legs as a result of increased vein pressure due to your malfunctioning venous valves.
While ulcers can be frightening, there are several ways in which we can treat these sores. First and foremost, it’s important to address the underlying cause of the problem–your venous insufficiency and edema.
To help control edema, we recommend that patients wear compression stockings; the pressure will help encourage pooling blood to flow out of your legs and back up to your heart, reducing the swelling you experience in your legs. Elevating your legs can help as well: if you put your feet up above the level of your heart, it will also encourage pooling blood to leave your legs.
But there’s one more way we can control edema and VI, reducing your risk of venous ulcers: exercise!
Exercise as a Form of Ulcer Prevention
As long as your doctor has cleared you for physical activity, certain forms of exercise can help manage VI, edema and ulcers. Exercises that are particularly effective include:
Ankle flexions (point your toes forward, away from the body, then flex them, pulling the toes toward your shin). The exercise is even more effective if performed while standing, or with the addition of a resistance band will further enhance the effects.
Brisk walking intervals, scattered throughout the day, will strengthen your calf muscle, helping it contract and push blood out of your lower legs.
Treadmill walking, especially at an incline, if this is possible for you, will further strengthen your calf muscles. If you aren’t up to treadmill walking, you can get similar benefits from rocking in a rocking chair, pushing off the ground with your feet to rock.
Of course, the best way to prevent ulcers is to maintain ideal vein health. If you start to notice any signs of VI or edema, come in and schedule a diagnostic vein scan. That way, we can stay on top of your vein health before more serious problems set in.
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.
#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.
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.
CVD (Chronic venous disease, also known as chronic venous insufficiency) refers to several vein problems, all of which are chronic. If you have CVD, you may develop varicose veins, spider veins, and/or ulcers on your lower legs. CVD occurs when the veins in your legs become unable to return blood to your central circulatory system or heart. Without proper treatment, CVD will likely get worse, leading to pain, damage to your legs, and other medical issues such as blood clots. It’s important to know the risk factors and warning signs of CVD so you can receive a diagnosis and treatment plan before the condition progresses.
What is My Risk Factor for Chronic Venous Disease?
Unfortunately, just getting older puts you at higher risk for CVD. As the body ages, the stress on the valves of the veins increases, which can prevent your blood from flowing from the lower extremities to the heart.
Gender is also another risk factor: women get CVD more frequently than men. Hormone replacement therapy, and hormonal birth control can contribute to the risk of CVD, as can the hormonal changes and physical stress that occurs during pregnancy. Genetics are also a risk factor, as people with a family history of varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or other vascular diseases are more likely to develop CVD.
Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle that includes long periods of standing or sitting, and lack of physical activity in general can also contribute to your risk for CVD. Staying active will help improve your circulation and keep your body better supplied with oxygen.
What are the Symptoms of CVD?
If you experience any of the following symptoms or have chronic or debilitating leg pain, it is best to seek evaluation and discuss treatment options with a medical professional as soon as possible. Left untreated, these symptoms could worsen, causing more pain or even more serious medical conditions.
Leg aches and pains
Leg cramping and night gramps
Tired or heavy legs
Rashes, skin darkening, or patches of dry itchy skin on the leg
Burning or itching veins in lower extremities
Ulcers on the leg that are slow to heal
Blue, bulging twisted veins (varicose veins or spider veins)
Swollen or tight-feeling ankles
Lymphedema (a build-up of fluid underneath the skin)
Texas Endovascular provides several treatment options for patients with chronic venous disease. Contact us to schedule a consultation if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Treatment Options for Chronic Venous Disease
Early detection and treatment can decrease pain of CVD and reduce the risk of developing additional, more serious medical complications.
Detection and diagnosis of chronic venous disease, as well as arterial disease and blood clots, is done with a diagnostic ultrasound evaluation. This technology enables a sonographer to see inside the body and locate both superficial and deep varicose veins.
We offer wide variety of treatment options for chronic venous disease, including:
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
RFA involves inserting a catheter into the abnormal vein and using heat energy to close it. The procedure takes less than an hour, requires only a local anesthetic and leaves no scar.
Ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy
Ultrasound guided sclerotherapy is often used to close any residual, non-bulging varicose veins after radiofrequency ablation. The procedure uses ultrasound to access a vein. Using a small needle, a medication combined with carbon dioxide gas is injected into the abnormal vein to close it. The procedure is quick, and patients are able to resume their daily activities immediately afterward. Anti-inflammatory medications and compression stockings may be used to help manage any discomfort following RFA and ultrasound sclerotherapy.
Our additional treatment options for eliminating bulging and spider veins caused by CVD include:
Radiofrequency perforator ablation
Varicose Vein Help in Texas
Dr. William C. Fox and Dr. Eric Hardee of Texas Endovascular specialize in treating patients with chronic venous disease using state-of-the-art technology and minimally invasive procedures. The results provide quick relief from the symptoms of CVD, and patients are typically able to resume their normal, day-to-day activities immediately following treatment.
If you are experiencing symptoms of CVD, don’t wait to seek treatment. Contact our expert physicians today to schedule a consultation.
Varicose veins, which are veins that bulge and become visible through the surface of the skin, affect up to 35% of Americans. Many people think they can ignore the veins, dismissing them as merely unsightly, but not dangerous. But here’s the thing: while the veins themselves don’t cause serious medical issues, their appearance could be a sign of bigger problems brewing beneath the surface of your skin.
Valves and Veins
Veins are blood vessels that return blood back to your heart from other parts of your body. Your veins contain a series of valves that are supposed to open and close easily, helping your body fight gravity to push blood up towards the heart.
Sometimes, those valves don’t work well, and the blood travel suffers—flowing backwards or pooling in your legs and feet. When that condition sets in, you are experiencing something called venous insufficiency. As it turns out, varicose veins can actually be a symptom of venous insufficiency: the pooling blood is what causes your veins to bulge, as they become overwhelmed.
Signs of A Problem
Varicose veins are a visible symptom of venous insufficiency, which is why they are helpful indicators. Other symptoms of this condition include chronic leg swelling, especially swelling that gets worse throughout the day; heavy legs; and, surprisingly, pelvic pain.
Why is it important to identify and treat venous insuffiency? The answer is this: with this condition, varicose veins are just the tip of the iceberg. In severe cases, VI can cause you to develop a deep vein thrombosis ( a clot that forms in the veins deep in your legs.) A DVT is a medical emergency, because if it breaks loose from your leg veins, it could travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and threaten your life.
Treating Your Varicose Veins
Many times, our Houston vein specialists are able to diagnose VI because a patient seeks treatment for varicose veins.
Thankfully, many varicose veins can be treated quickly, with minimally invasive procedures. And the opportunity to diagnose a bigger, potentially life-threatening problem? Worth every moment of a so-called cosmetic consultation!
If you have been distressed recently and noticed the appearance of little red and blue lines on your legs, don’t panic. Yes, you are young, healthy, and quite fit, so why would you see those “old lady” spider veins?
You may not like how they look, but the fact is they are really nothing to become upset about, and they happen to be quite normal. With that said, there are some facts you should know about spider veins even if you are young.
Scientists this week announced an exciting new discovery in Nature magazine: they’ve discovered the stem cells responsible for growing new blood vessels in embryos. If the cells can be studied and applied to adults, this could allow scientists to grow healthy new blood vessels to repair or replace old, damaged ones.
While growing new blood vessels would clearly be important for people suffering from vein disease, the applications could be even wider: new blood vessels could help doctors treat heart disease and circulatory conditions like peripheral arterial disease.
The discovery is very exciting because, before this, scientists believed that embryo blood vessels grew when other cells (endothelial cells, which create the lining for blood vessels) divided. With this new research, scientists at University College London have shown that stems cells in the blood can actually create and grow endothelial cells.
While this discovery is important, it is not yet able to help people suffering from vein disease. In order for that to happen, researchers will have to determine whether the stem cells can grow endothelial cells throughout life, or just during the embryo stage of development.
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.”
Since varicose veins are primarily caused by inactivity in the legs over a long period of time, getting out there and doing some exercises can help prevent and alleviate the symptoms associated with varicose veins.
How Does Exercise Help Prevent Varicose Veins?
While there’s no way to completely prevent varicose veins, regular exercise can help reduce the chances that you’ll get them. Simply changing your sitting or standing position regularly can improve your blood circulation, which helps reduce the amount of blood swelling the veins in your legs.
Exercise can increase your body’s ability to pump blood up the leg back toward the heart. It also helps keep your weight down, which further decreases your chances of getting varicose veins. Walking is a good choice, as are low-impact activities, such as swimming and biking.
What Exercises Prevent Varicose Veins?
If you already have varicose veins, exercise can keep them from getting worse and also help alleviate pain and discomfort. Generally, low-impact exercises are best, and include the following:
Walking or Running
Walking just 30 minutes a day for five days a week can yield good benefits. If you run, try to find a grassy surface or synthetic track to minimize the stress on your joints.
Sit or lie on your back while sticking your feet straight out. Lift one leg at a time up, holding it in the air. Slowly lower it down and repeat with the other leg.
Bicycling or Bicycle Legs
Riding a bike or stationary bike is also helpful. If you don’t have access to any kind of bike, you can try this bicycle legs exercise. While lying on your back, put your legs in the air, bending them at the knee. Pedal them slowly as if you are bicycling. Try both legs at once, or alternate one at a time.
Stand with your legs apart. Step forward slowly, bending your knee and making sure to keep your knee directly above your ankle. Hold it, then slowly straighten your leg and step back to your original position. Repeat with the other leg. While standing with your legs straight, rise up on your tiptoes and then lower back down. Repeat.
Rocking Your Feet
While you’re sitting or standing, rock your feet back and forth from heel to toe. This can be done at any time and is also helpful if health conditions prevent you from trying other forms of exercise.
Seek Varicose Vein Treatment
Exercise can be helpful when dealing with varicose veins, but you may also need treatment to achieve better results. Texas Endovascular offers minimally invasive, in-office procedures that don’t require general anesthesia or sedation. Several different treatment options are available for varicose veins, and each requires little or no recovery time. In fact, most patients are able to return to work the same day. We’ll choose the procedure that will yield the best results in your particular case, improving your comfort level as well as appearance.
Contact Texas Endovascular at (713) 575-3686 today for more information about the best exercises and treatments for varicose veins and to schedule an appointment!