Tag: venous insufficiency

New Tips for Treating Leg Ulcers

Leg ulcers are open wounds that are hard to heal. That’s why treating leg ulcers is so tricky. And why new treatment studies and technology are so important. Today, we’ll explore two of those factors. The first is a new study related to the timing of treating leg ulcers. The second is a new technology for treating leg ulcers. Launched by FeelTect, an Irish startup, this ‘Tight Alright’ technology is intended for use in a new medical device. It will sense pressure to help with detecting and treating leg ulcers. And the third is a new smart bandage, that can wirelessly monitor wound healing, so you can keep an ulcer covered while making sure it’s progressing. But to understand why and how these treatments will work, we must first explore what causes venous leg ulcers.

Are There Different Types of Ulcers?

An ulcer is a deep wound. There are different types of ulcers that can form inside or outside of your body. They develop when healthy tissue erodes from a certain area of your body. And there are many reasons why that might happen.

Different types of ulcers include arterial ulcers, which develop on your skin because of problems with lack of blood flow. You may develop mouth ulcers, or canker sores, which form for many different reasons. Another type of ulcer can form on the genitals, or in the stomach or small intestine. (The latter are called peptic ulcers.)

Finally, you may develop venous ulcers on the skin of your lower legs. Also called varicose or stasis leg ulcers, these are the types of ulcers we’ll explore in this post.

What are Venous Leg Ulcers and Why Do They Form?

person wearing compression stockings
In conjunction with compression therapy, this new technology could help speed up the healing of ulcers

Venous leg ulcers are chronic wounds that develop because of venous insufficiency, a condition in which your body can’t circulate blood from your lower limbs. Venous insufficiency sets in when tiny valves in your veins stop working well. Instead of forcing blood back up towards the heart, it pools your legs. Then, your veins get stretched out and fluid builds up in your lower limbs.

You may be at risk for venous leg ulcers if you have a high Body Mass Index (BMI). Living a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk. As can high blood pressure. Finally, if your veins are insufficient, you have deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and/or a family history of these conditions, you’re more likely to develop an ulcer. 

Treating Venous Leg Ulcers

Compression therapy is a great first treatment for leg ulcers. The pressure placed on the veins in your lower legs can help get pooling blood out of the area, taking the pressure off your bulging veins and making the excess fluid less likely to contribute to existing ulcers, or to allow new ones to develop.

Now, compression therapy isn’t perfect. If doctors apply too much pressure, it can cut off all circulation to your limbs. Not enough pressure, and the treatment will be wholly ineffective. And, since compression devices cover the area being treated, it can be tough for doctors to determine just how much pressure is being delivered to your veins.

The Tight Alright device is intended to work in conjunction with compression therapy. Using wireless technology, the device measures and monitors the amount of pressure being delivered to your leg beneath the compression bandages.

Of course, bandages also cover wounds. But removing them to check on healing can irritate your ulcer. To help combat this problem, researchers from the National University of Singapore developed a wearable sensor that  detects wound temperature, pH, bacteria type and inflammatory factors. Best of all? It can do so in 15 minutes, wirelessly, so we can be sure your wound is healing well without disturbing the protective dressing.

Alternative Treatments for Leg Ulcers

Clearly, compression therapy isn’t perfect. And while new technology can help, changing treatment protocols may make a bigger difference. According to a new study in JAMA Surgery, compression therapy may not be the best first course of action.

In a clinical trial, 450 leg ulcer patients were instead treated with early interventions. And the results were astounding: patients healed faster. And had a lower risk of repeat problems with ulcers. Their outcomes were better than for those patients who first tried treating leg ulcers with compression therapy. And then turned to other interventions.

Of course, new treatment options keep popping up. In a recent study from the Journal of Experimental Dermatology researchers combined compression therapy with topical cannabinoids. (If you don’t know, cannabinoids are chemical compounds that naturally occur in cannabis plants. They range from non-psychoactive CBD to federally controlled-substances such as THC. And researchers believe they may offer medicinal properties.)

For this study, 14 elderly patients with non-healing leg ulcers received topical cannabis-based treatments, as well as compression bandages. At the end of the study period, 11 of those subjects reported full wound closure. Now, this is an exciting development. But more research, and larger studies, are needed before we can widely recommend this treatment option.

Treating Leg Ulcers in Houston

As vein specialists in the Houston area, we’re watching all the developments when it comes to treating leg ulcers. That way we can always deliver the most up-to-date care for our patients living with vein disease. Ready to explore your leg ulcer treatment options? Schedule an appointment with our specialists today!

Sources: Feeltect.com, JAMA Surgery

CVI, Chronic 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 cvi, chronic vein insufficiency!

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 Chronic Venous Insufficiency?

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

Exercises that Help

 

While we have many ways to treat CVI, exercise is an important part of managing this condition. Here are some of the best options to help you feel better.

Walking

Choosing a low-impact walking workout will strengthen your calf muscles so blood will get out of your legs at a faster pace.

Leg Lifts

This is a stationary move that strengthens your entire leg, and helps get blood circulating. To try, lie down flat on your back.  Working on one leg at a time, raise your leg to the ceiling and hold it in place for 10 seconds. Slowly lower that leg while raising the other, repeating for 10 reps on each side.

Calf Raises

We can’t say enough about calf raises. That’s why we devoted this entire post to their benefits. Check it out!

Swimming

We love this zero-impact workout because it takes all the pressure off your bones while strengthening your leg muscles to improve circulation.

Vein Healthy Yoga Poses

One of the best poses for chronic venous insufficiency is also one of the most relaxing. To try it, lie down on your back on a flat surface, close to a wall. Face your feet towards the wall, and slowly walk both legs up it, until they form a 90-degree angle against the floor. Hold the position as long as you feel comfortable, to get blood out of your legs and prevent pooling and vein stretching.

 

Treating CVI in Houston

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.

Preventing Vein Insufficiency

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.

Worried about CVI and hoping to prevent complications? We’re here to help. Schedule a consultation with our Houston vein specialists, so we can give you a treatment plan to manage CVI.

Sources: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Your Cankles Could Be Hiding Types of Lymphedema!

There are several types of lymphedema, and all are serious health problems. But many people don’t know that. Instead, they might think they just have cankles. Now, 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.) Keep in mind, “cankles” is a slang — it isn’t a term you’ll hear doctors using. But it could be describing several medical conditions, so it’s worth paying attention to your cankles.

Of course, sometimes, cankles could just be a sign that your calf muscles aren’t well-defined. It may even be the result of extra fat tissue in the are. But often, cankles develop because you have fluid build up in your lower leg.

Sometimes, people will also complain about elephant legs. This is another sign of lymphedema, but it just means the swelling extends beyond your ankle. (It’s also a sign that you’ve entered the last, and most dangerous, stage of lymphedema.) While many women, and some men, complain about the way their cankles or legs look, it turns out that they could both be a sign of more serious health issues.

What Causes My Ankles to Swell? Types of Lymphedema

There are two main types of lymphedema: primary and secondary. With primary lymphedema we don’t always know the cause. (But we’ll review some common ones in a moment.) Now, with secondary lymphedema, your swelling usually develops after a surgery or infection, because those triggers damaged your lymphatic pathways’ ability to drain.

When it comes to primary lymphedema, there can be several triggers we’ve identified. Many pregnant women develop swollen ankles. Usually, this cankle cause clears up once you deliver your baby, so you may not need to seek treatment. Individuals with liver or kidney disease may also develop ankle swelling. So, if you have a family history of either disease, mention your swollen ankles right away to your doctor.

Additionally, cankles could be a sign of excess fat in your ankles, and not of swelling. If you are a woman and you’re seeing excess ankle fat, you might have lipedema. This hormonal condition, affecting up to 11% of women, causes extra fat to build up beneath the skin on your legs. It can be painful and serious, and you should review your symptoms with your doctor.

You should discuss the possibility of any of these conditions with your doctor. But, today, we’re going to talk about circulation and cankles. Because swollen, puffy ankles are symptoms of several potentially serious vein conditions. For that reason, you should see your doctor at the first signs of lymphedema. That’s the only way to prevent serious complications.

Venous disease/insufficiency

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

Edema

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 vs Lipedema

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.

Other signs of lymphedema include progressive symptoms. In the later stages of disease, you may also not some “pillow” swelling in your foot. If it’s caused by Lymphedema, it won’t go away after sleeping. Another sign is called Stemmer’s symptom. This is when you can’t fold the skin on the back of your second toe. Also, your skin will likely appear pale. And the swelling will reach the middle of your lower leg, but won’t hit your thigh. (This is when we start to hear about model heather has lipedemaelephant legs.) Finally, you may develop fibrosis, when the skin on your leg becomes thicker and hardens.

Now, lipedema is a different condition that also may increase your ankle size, but this is due to fat buildup, not fluid retention. Plus, if lipedema is your concern, you’ll likely have fat deposits in areas other than your ankles. In fact, lipedema usually strikes your calves, thighs and buttocks. And, unlike lymphedema, this condition typically impacts women, not men.

Recognizing Lipedema

With this condition, excess fat builds up on the lower half of your body, but there’s no obvious cause for this build-up. While many women with lipedema are overweight, obesity doesn’t seem to cause this fat build up. Instead, the condition seems linked to hormones, since most women develop symptoms at times of major hormonal shifts. (Think puberty, pregnancy and/or menopause.)

Lipedema Types

This condition comes in several different forms. With Type I lipedema, most of your fat covers your buttocks and pelvis, staying concentrated between your navel and hips. With Type II, those buildups develop between your pelvis and knees.

Do you have fat concentrations that run from your pelvis to your ankles? That’s a sign of Type III, especially if you notice a distinct fat cut-off right at your ankles. Now, with Type IV, the deposits are distributed on your upper body, from your shoulders to your wrists. But with Type V, most of your buildups hang out on your calves.

Now, it’s difficult to treat lipidemia. So many women, including body positivity role model Heather Johnson, choose to embrace their larger lower bodies. Still, lipidema can cause pain, and the build-up of lymphatic fluid. (That condition is called secondary lymphedema.) And if that happens, treatment may be necessary.

How and When to Treat Your Cankles swollen, painful legs and ankles could be lymphedemaolding knee

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!

Noticed swelling in your ankles? Don’t wait to see if it goes away on it’s own, or your symptoms may progress! Instead, schedule an appointment with your Houston vein specialists right away. We can diagnose the cause of your cankles. And get you on the path to proper healing.

 

Sources: Lymphatic Network

 

Can Lymphedema Exercises for Legs Help Me?

Are you wondering if there are lymphedema exercises for legs that will relieve swelling? We don’t blame you! After all, swollen legs aren’t just uncomfortable. They could be a sign of a serious condition called venous insufficiency. (Also called VI, this is a condition in which your veins fail to circulate blood properly, especially to your lower extremities). As a result, you may develop troubling symptoms. One common side effect of VI is edema (swelling) in your 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 two more ways we can control edema and VI, reducing your risk of venous ulcers: diet and exercise!

Dietary Changes to Prevent Swollen Legs

If you’ve noticed swelling in your legs, it’s a great time to start changing your diet! First and foremost, cut back on your salt intake. Too much sodium in your diet can lead to water retention, making your edema symptoms worsen. Keep in mind that lots of canned soups, snacks, cheeses and even pickles are high in sodium, so it’s not enough to just bypass the salt shaker.

Next up on the dietary schedule? Drink more water. While it may seem strange, increasing your fluid intake can actually help flush retained fluid from your body. So, if edema is a problem for you, grab an 8-ounce water glass and start sipping!

Not a fan of H20? While water is best, other liquids may help you fight fluid retention. Some people find benefits from sipping dandelion tea. But since this fluid can interact with your medications, you should never drink this brew without your doctor’s approval. A safer choice? Try drinking lemon water! This will add a bit of pep to your regular water. And, as an added bonus, the lemon may help flush toxins–and excess fluid–out of your body! Finally, cranberry juice can also be a helpful beverage. Packed with magnesium, potassium and calcium, cranberry juice may help maintain proper fluid balance in your body. (Plus, it could help prevent urinary tract infections!)

Now, other nutrients may also help avoid water retention, but if your edema is related to vein disease, you should discuss serious dietary changes with your vein specialist. And you should also take a look at your exercise routine!

Lymphedema Exercises for Legs to Prevent Ulcers

As long as your doctor has cleared you for physical activity, certain forms of lymphedema exercises for legs can help manage VI, edema and ulcers. Exercises that are particularly effective include:

Walk your way to a lower risk of vein disease!
  • 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.
  • If you already have lymphedema, swimming is an excellent choice. It works because you’re horizontal and in constant motion, without impact on your legs.
  • Riding a recumbent bike is also a good choice because you’ll keep your legs slightly elevated and in motion. But you’ll do so with little impact on your lower body.

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.

 

Sources: thehealthsite.com, healthline.com 

American Heart Month: Show Your Heart Some Love This V-Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Did you know that the month of love is also American Heart Month, a time devoted to raising awareness about heart disease prevention. Heart disease is a more prevalent problem than cancer in this country, affecting so many Americans. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in this country. (It kills one out of every three women in this country.)

But why are your Houston area vein specialists talking about heart problems? Shouldn’t we stick to varicose veins? Well, as it turns out, protecting your heart can also help protect your veins. Here’s what you need to know,

Heart Month Update: Some Vein Issues are Actually Heart Problems

Your circulatory system is a team that consists of arteries, veins and your heart. Because all three work together, when any one team member is suffering, the entire group may be affected.

Venous insufficiency

When you have VI, not enough blood reaches your organs and extremities. And when that condition sets in, blood can collect or “pool”, in your veins. This pooling can lead to a domino effect—arteries may lose their ability to efficiently carry blood away from your heart, and the already struggling veins won’t be able to bring it back! And when blood stays stuck in places it doesn’t belong, you may start to develop…

Varicose and spider veins

Those bulging veins, most often seen along your leg, are unsightly, but they can often be a sign of a much bigger issue. In addition to being uncomfortable or even painful, the elevated vein pressure inside of those varicose veins has been linked to right-sided heart failure. Scary, we know…but the story doesn’t stop there! Circulatory problems can also lead to an elevated risk of:

Blood clots

Blood clots can cause kill you, plain and simple. The body naturally forms blood clots when you get a cut or other form of injury, but when they form inside your veins or arteries, the resulting decrease in blood flow can cause a stroke or heart attack. When you develop a clot in the deep veins of your legs, (Deep Vein Thrombosis, a condition for which you are at risk if you have varicose veins), the clot may break free without your knowledge, traveling to your lungs (pulmonary embolism) where it becomes a potentially fatal condition.

So, if you want to show yourself some love this V-day, make some moves to protect your veins, heart and your entire circulatory system. Here are some important steps you can take to protect your heart health:

Heart Month (and Vein) Saving Lifestyle Changes

We know that some of these changes may be more difficult than others, but here’s the good news: it’s not an all or nothing game! Even shooting for one simple lifestyle change can help you make important health gains. And who knows? Once you start feeling better, you may be inspired to keep on making positive changes! Or to consider scheduling a diagnostic ultrasound with our team of Houston area vein and PAD specialists.

 

Three Reasons Why Your Veins Become Visible, & When to Worry

Ugh, those visible veins that change your leg appearance! We all want to know that our veins are healthy and working properly…but that doesn’t mean we want to see them through our skin! Unfortunately, several factors make it more likely for your veins to become visible. First, we’ll go over your risk factors and then—because we’re Houston-based vein specialists, we’ll help you figure out how to treat visible, bulging veins!

1.       Your Age Affects your Veins.

The older you get, the more visible your veins become. Why? As you age, your skin becomes thinner and, at the same time, your veins weaken, getting stretched out and collecting more pooled blood. In combination, these two elements contribute to larger veins that are easily visible through your skin.

 

2.       Your body weight makes visible veins.

If you are underweight, or have very little body fat, your veins will appear closer to the surface of your skin and become more visible. At the same time, if you’re overweight, you put more pressure on your legs. In turn, this can make it harder to get blood back up to your heart as it flows against gravity. This means pooling blood can stretch your veins and change their color, making them darker. At that point, you would also notice visible veins, which are a sign of our next contributing factor…

 

3.       Vein disease and Visible Veins

Even without aging, vein disease can cause varicose veins to develop, and these are more visible than veins that work properly. You see varicose veins develop when valves, typically in your leg veins, stop working properly. This keeps blood from flowing out of your legs, causing it to pool in your veins. As the blood accumulates, your veins darken and bulge, becoming more visible.  You may also develop symptoms such as swelling, cramps or leg pain, itching and heaviness in your legs.

Now, keep in mind: Varicose veins 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.

sclerotherapy for spider veins
Learn more about spider veins to prevent long-term complications!

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!

Sources: Women Fitness Magazine

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