Tag: COVID-19

Check out 9 Reasons Why Your Feet Swell

In our Houston area vein clinics, we see many people with peripheral edema—which is swelling of your feet and ankles due to fluid build-up–who ask why do my feet swell? Most of the patients we see for edema have fluid trapped in the soft tissues of their legs, and this buildup is due to malfunctioning valves in their veins.

But where does that fluid come from? It seeps out of your small blood vessels and collects in nearby tissue. Then, your sodium (salt) and water levels increase.

Next, your kidneys respond by circulating more blood around your body; this only starts a cycle that can lead to more leaking fluid and increased swelling.  Now, when things are working properly, your lymphatic system should get rid of that excess fluid, but when it isn’t up to the challenge, you’ll notice fluid build up.

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.

What About Lymphedema? why do my feet swell

Related to edema is lymphedema, a form of chronic edema that develops when your body’s lymphatic system isn’t functioning properly. It’s different than the edema tied to vein-disease. But it’s important to understand that vein disease is progress, and so you may end up with both vein disease and a lymphatic disorder. As with swelling in the lower legs, lymphedema requires the attention of a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Otherwise, lymphedema can lead to serious complications, including leg amputation, as was recently the case for Bachelorette Season 15 contestant Cam Ayala.

Now, primary edema is the main 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.

9 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. Your Feet Swell After a Long Flight or Drive

    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 Feet Swell Because you’re 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.

  8. Heart or Kidney Problems are Brewing

    As we mentioned earlier, your kidney play a role in regulating fluid buildup in your body. When they aren’t functioning properly, they are unable to remove excess fluid, and you may develop edema. Similarly, when your heart isn’t working effectively, it can’t sufficiently pump blood around your body, allowing pressure to build up in your blood vessels. This can trigger the type of leaking fluid we initially discussed. And it’s why swollen feet and ankles are a common symptom of congestive heart failure, and hypertensive heart disease.

  9. Liver Disease

    When your liver is diseased, your hormone levels are impacted, as are the chemicals in your body which regulate fluids. Therefore, you may retain fluid and notice swollen feet and ankles with liver disease.

 

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: Foot Pain Explored

Eat This: Zinc, Vitamin B, and Food for Vein Health

Did you know that your diet should include important nutrients and food for vein health? During this COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been hearing a lot more about the importance of Zinc in your diet.  This is what we know: zinc is a trace element which your immune systems needs to function properly. In fact, zinc is considered a type 2 nutrient because it’s a necessary part of your body’s general metabolism (other type 2 nutrients include protein and magnesium.) So, if you have a zinc deficiency, you’ll be at a higher risk for infections, diseases and viruses like COVID-19.

But supporting immunity isn’t zinc’s only important job. In fact, this little element plays many roles in your body. And a little of it goes a long way: your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc is 8 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.

It’s entirely possible to get your daily zinc dose from your diet (more on that shortly.) Otherwise, talk to your doctor about starting a zinc supplement.

Still waiting to be sold on zinc? Let’s take a closer look at two of its numerous function: supporting immunity and wound healing.

How Does Zinc Regulate Immunity?

Without zinc, our body can’t activate its T lymphocytes (T cells). And we need those T cells for two jobs: controlling and regulating our body’s immune response, and attacking cells that are infected or even cancerous.

What does that all mean for you? If you don’t get enough zinc, your immune system just won’t work the way it should. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals, “zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.”

Now, those pathogens range from severe infections to conditions like a common cold. Which is why, according to a study published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, zinc supplementation could shorten your cold experience by as much as 40%. Plus, it could make your symptoms less severe while you’re still under the weather. It’s not so surprising, then, that zinc can also help your body heal leg ulcers, a common symptom of vein disease.

How Zinc Helps Heal Your Wounds

Before we explain why zinc can help heal your leg ulcers, let’s review why you might develop this kind of wound. When you have chronic vein problems, you may develop non-healing ulcers or open sores on your lower legs. Also called venous ulcers, they usually develop around your ankle, varying in size from very small to several inches in diameter.

What’s the connection between these two issues? Chronic vein disease causes a progressive inflammatory reaction in your body, and that damages your capillaries and lymphatic ducts. After that damage, fluid leaks into the tissues of your lower legs, causing swelling and depositing hemoglobin in your lower leg tissue.

But that’s not all—capillary damage also decreases your lower leg’s oxygen levels, which translates to poor wound healing and ulcers.

We treat venous ulcers with compression therapy and wound care, while also treating your underlying vein condition. And now we know that zinc could help speed up your healing. Why?

One of zinc’s jobs is to maintain your skin’s health. In fact, you may be more susceptible to leg ulcers if you have a zinc deficiency.  As such, some studies suggest that applying zinc to your wounds could help speed healing, but further research is required before this becomes our primary treatment protocol.

How Can I Add Zinc to my Diet Naturally?

Beans, animal proteins, nuts, fish and seafood are all good sources of zinc. You can also get zinc from whole grain cereals, and dairy products. Top choices for zinc include fortified cereals, Pacific raw oysters, canned baked beans, cooked green peas, yogurt, pecans, lean ground beef and roasted peanuts.

Luckily, you’ve got lots of tasty ways to get your recommended daily zinc intake from diet alone. If, however, you feel you may have a zinc insufficiency, you may consider supplementation. Zinc supplements come in capsule and tablet form.

Keep in mind, however, that too much zinc can also cause problems in your body. So talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet. And, if you’re dealing with a leg ulcer right now, don’t delay treatment—regardless of the COVID-19 outbreak, you must stick with your follow up ulcer appointments. Failure to do so could even result in amputation!

Other Nutrients and Food for Vein Health

Now you’ve seen how zinc can help your veins–and COVID 19. But there are other important nutrients you should add to your diet, in order to boost circulation and protect your vascular system. Here are some of the top choices:

Vitamin B

The family of B vitamins can do great things for your vascular health. If you have varicose veins, taking B6 can help them heal. Vitamin B12 improves blood flow, and B3 can lower cholesterol while boosting circulation.

Vitamin B6 can restore vein health, making it a good choice for varicose vein sufferers. Vitamins B6 and B12 promote healthy blood flow. Vitamin B3, or niacin, aids in blood circulation and lowering blood cholesterol.

What to eat: Brown rice, wheat, barley, turkey and tuna.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can preserve flexibility in your vein walls, and reduce arterial inflammation.

What to eat: berries, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, and lemons.

Vitamin K

This nutrient for vein health can help you prevent blood clots! At the same time, deficiencies with this vitamin can lead to excessive bleeding, so it’s important to watch your intake carefully. This vitamin can also keep blood from pooling, which will reduce your risk for varicose veins. And, you need k2 vitamins to keep elastin from calcifying, which would further increase your varicose vein risk.

What to eat: parsley, mustard seeds, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and pumpkin.

Vitamin D

Your veins and arteries need this nutrient to stay relaxed and keep blood flowing freely. If your Vitamin D levels dip too low, your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) rises dramatically.

What to eat: oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Need more help preserving your vein health? That’s what we’re here for! Schedule an appointment with our Houston area vein specialists today. We can get a better picture of your current risk factors, and help you with diet and lifestyle changes to treat any existing issues.

 

 

 

Sources: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Open Respiratory Medicine Journal

How and Why to Stick With Your Leg Ulcer Care

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve stayed home more, often delaying medical care. Of course, this means delaying procedures that are purely optional. But if you’ve developed a leg ulcer, your treatment and follow-up care isn’t optional. In fact, it’s crucial to your health—especially in terms of preventing amputations!

Under the circumstances, we’d like to share a suggested screening protocol for your vein specialist visit. Keep in mind, every office visit will be different. But if you’ve had or are currently dealing with a leg ulcer, consider this your assessment guidelines.

What is a Leg Ulcer and Why Would I Get One?

Leg ulcers are just open sores that don’t heal in the typical time-frame. Often, you develop leg ulcers if you have chronic vein problems. Typically, they develop around your ankle, ranging in size from very small to several inches in diameter. Sometimes, these sores don’t hurt that much. But, for many patients, their venous ulcers become very painful and develop infections.

Why does chronic vein disease lead to ulcer development? CVD causes inflammation in your body, and that inflammation damages your capillaries and lymphatic ducts. This damage allows fluid to leak out of your capillaries, which can cause swelling in your lower legs. And, as fluid builds up in your leg’s soft tissue, sores may develop.

So, now you’ve got a sore. But why won’t it heal? Here’s the story: that capillary damage also means your lower legs have lower oxygen levels. And less oxygen inhibits your body’s ability to heal itself. That’s when your open sores or ulcers stick around. Unless, of course, you seek treatment.

What Your Vein Specialist Will Do During Your Ulcer Visit

When you come into our Houston area vein clinics, we’re going to address your ulcer. But we’ll also treat your underlying condition, so you don’t keep dealing with these open sores.

In order to treat your ulcer, we’ll take a two-pronged approach: wound care and compression therapy. We’ll care for your wound by keeping the sore clean to prevent infection. And we’ll dress it with sterile bandages to keep your wound clean.

We’ll also recommend appropriate compression therapy, in the form of prescription level compression stockings. These stockings will increase blood flow to your lower legs, which will help speed up your healing process.

New Medication for Leg Ulcers

Studies now suggest that a drug called Oxybryta could play an important role in leg ulcer care if you have sickle cell anemia. While anyone with vein issues may develop leg ulcers, between 14% and 18% of people with sickle cell will get one.

Right now, this drug is only approved for treating leg ulcers in people with sickle cell disease who are over the age of 12. Still, it’s promising news for anyone with compromised circulation or a risk for leg ulcers. And we’ll carefully watch this and other developments to help offer the best leg ulcer care to our patients.

Continued Treatment After Healing

Once your wound is on the path to healing, we can address your underlying vein condition. To do so, we’ll close up the vein that isn’t working properly. Once closed off, blood will flow through the veins that are working appropriately, helping return optimal oxygen levels to your lower legs, and preventing further complications.

We know these are scary times, but leg ulcers are also scary medical developments. So we don’t want you to compromise your vein or limb health out of fear. Please know that we are taking every precaution in our office to protect you and our team members. So don’t wait another day to address your vein health. Make an appointment today to address your ulcers and underlying conditions.

Sources: American Journal of Hematology, Healthcare Improvement Scotland,

Here’s Why the Pandemic is Extra Risky for PAD Patients

We’re all stressed right now. Because, whether you’ve lost your job, are working on the front lines, or are adjusting to a new work-from-home setup, work stress is constant. That’s not good for anyone. But, according to a new evidence published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, it’s especially problematic for people with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Let’s take a closer look at these results. Then, we’ll determine what your next steps should be if you’re living with or at risk for PAD.

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

First, a review: PAD is a cardiovascular problem. It develops when cholesterol or plaque (fatty substances in your blood) build up in your blood vessels, preventing blood flow. Typically, we see this accumulation in your legs, which contain some of the vessels farthest away from your heart—at the periphery of your body, hence the name.

Initially, PAD can be hard to diagnose, since many symptoms are subtle, or mimic other complications. Still, if you experience changes in your skin color, hair loss on your legs and, most especially, leg pain when you walk, you may have PAD.

Even at the best of times, PAD is a serious condition. Left untreated, it elevates your risk of heart attack and/or stroke. So, treatment is always crucial. But, according to these new study results, treating your PAD at this moment is even more important. Why? Researchers discovered that PAD patients who experience work-related stress are more likely to require hospitalization.

Why Stress Worsens PAD Symptoms

For the purposes of this new study, work-related stress encompasses both psychological and social pressure. Typically, this stress results from a loss of personal control, combined with high on-the-job expectations. And let’s face it: many of us are dealing with both of these issues during this period of quarantine and COVID-19.

What happens when PAD patients get stressed on the job? After examining records from 139,000 men and women between the ages of 39 to 49 years, researchers discovered that 667 of the participants entered the hospital  because of PAD complications.

And, after factoring in other health issues and lifestyle choices, the researchers discovered work-related stress increased the risk of PAD-related hospitalization by 1.4 times.  Lead study author Katriina Heikkilä explains, “Our findings suggest that the work-related stress could be a risk factor for peripheral arterial disease in a similar way as it is for heart disease and stroke.“

While the exact connection is unknown, stress is associated with an increase in inflammation and blood sugar levels. As such, it could contribute to PAD complications. In a big way: 25% of the patients who were hospitalized for the first time, reported work related stress when the study began.

Maintaining Your Health During Stressful Times

What does all of this mean for you, as a PAD patient? Well, first of all, try to manage your stress levels: prioritize movement, mindfulness and daily self-care. But, in times like these, stress may keep on coming. Still, that, doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself from hospitalization. What, then, is the key to your safety? Staying on top of your PAD treatment protocol, and getting regular check-ins with your arterial specialist. Don’t feel comfortable coming into our office? No problem. In recognition of the current pandemic, we are proud to offer Telemedicine appointments for PAD patients. So stay safe, and stay well, with your Houston PAD specialists.

Sources: Journal of the American Heart Association

Request an AppointmentRequest Appointment