Understanding Peripheral Artery Disease

The most common type of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is peripheral artery disease (PAD). Like the blood vessels of the heart (coronary arteries), your peripheral arteries (blood vessels outside the heart) also may develop atherosclerosis. Over time, the plaque buildup narrows the artery, causing increased pressure in the blood vessel. Eventually, the inside of the artery narrows so much that it restricts blood flow and less oxygen is delivered to the tissues, causing a condition called ischemia, an inadequate supply of blood that causes tissue damage.

If a fragment of this plaque from any part of the body breaks loose and clogs one of the arteries supplying the heart itself, the result is a heart attack. If a fragment breaks and blocks an artery going to the brain, a stroke will result. Narrowing of the arteries that supply the kidneys with blood can cause high blood pressure and kidney failure. Any tissue that does not have an adequate supply of blood and oxygen will, over time, become permanently damaged and die. It is critical to diagnose and treat peripheral vascular diseases before it becomes a more serious problem.

In the early stages of PAD, symptoms include cramping and pain in the legs and buttocks, indicating poor circulation in the legs. Other common symptoms include fatigue, heaviness and discomfort during exercise or activity. These symptoms generally go away when the activity stops or you are resting. This is called “intermittent claudication.”

These are early warning signs. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the symptoms of severe PAD intensify:

  • Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising
  • Foot or toe wounds that don’t heal or heal very slowly
  • A decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot, particularly compared to the other leg or the rest of your body.

What are the Risk Factors of Peripheral Artery Disease?

The most common type of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is peripheral artery disease (PAD), which affects about 8 million Americans. Atherosclerosis can start as early as the age of 20, and becomes more common as one gets older. By age 65, about 12 to 20 percent of the population has some degree of vascular disease. The exact cause is unknown, but several risk factors are known to accelerate the formation of fatty deposits, or plaque, in the arteries:

  • Smoking
  • Family history of vascular disease, angina, heart attacks or stroke
  • Being overweight
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Being male
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Stress

Early diagnosis is critical, as people with PAD have a four to five times higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, PAD often goes undiagnosed as symptoms are often mistaken for something else.

If you want to learn more about peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and treatment options, wish to discuss symptoms or problems you may be experiencing or if your doctor has recommended that you see us for a vascular test, please contact us at (804) 828-2600 or email us.

 

 

Spring is around the corner and I don’t want to live with these spider veins anymore – what can you do for me?

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Don’t be embarrassed. You don’t have to live with spider veins anymore.

If you’re always covering up your spider veins, those unsightly dark blue or red blotches or jagged networks of tiny veins on your legs with longer skirts, pants and bathing suit wraps and towels – it doesn’t have to be that way. Today we offer gentle, virtually pain free treatments that eliminate or greatly diminish the appearance of spider veins.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but are milder, involving the smaller veins just below the skin surface. Spider veins are more common among women of any age, and frequently appear during/after pregnancy or when gaining weight. The extra burden weakens the valves in the veins carrying blood back to the heart, so the blood pools and the veins swell. When only small, surface veins are affected, the result is spider veins, which can range from little patches to very large areas. They generally do not bulge or cause pain. But they can do damage to your self-esteem.

The good news is that today, spider veins are treatable – and easier to treat than other varicose veins. With new treatments using injections or safe laser technology, we offer cosmetic options that diminish or eliminate spider veins – and the embarrassment.

How are spider veins treated?

Until recently, spider veins went untreated. The veins are very small, there can be hundreds or thousands of them, and they do not present a significant health risk that requires surgery. However, today we can offer two gentle, technically advanced and effective treatments for spider veins that shrink or let the body absorb the damaged veins, leaving behind clear, unblemished skin: sclerotherapy or surface laser therapy.

Sclerotherapy involves using a tiny needle to inject individual spider veins with a solution that makes them shrink. As they shrink, blood is channeled to deeper veins, making the spider veins on the surface almost invisible. The vast majority of patients who have sclerotherapy experience significant improvement in the appearance of their veins.

Surface laser therapy uses an extremely accurate laser to deliver painless pulses of light energy to the spider veins on the surface of the skin. The energy causes the blood inside the veins to coagulate, which eventually destroys the spider veins, which are gradually absorbed by the body, which redirects blood flow to veins deeper below the skin’s surface, leaving behind clear, unblemished skin.

How long does treatment take?

The number of treatments needed to clear or improve your spider veins depends on their amount and severity. The average treatment is three to five sessions. Smaller veins may disappear after the first session. However, severe cases may require as many or ten or more sessions: in some cases, a vein may need to be injected one to five times or more, over a period of weeks or months. Multiple areas can be treated during each session, reducing the total number of treatments needed. In general, you’ll see an overall improvement within weeks or months.

Spider vein treatments do not prevent development of new spider veins over the years. Pregnancy, high estrogen levels or jobs that require a lot of standing may increase the likelihood that spider veins will reappear. Many people will require additional treatments from time to time to keep their legs clear.

Will insurance cover my treatment?

Most insurance companies consider spider vein treatment a cosmetic procedure, not medical, and in most cases it is not covered by insurance. You should check your individual plan to verify what varicose vein treatment options are included in your plan. Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options. You may decide that your beautiful legs are worth it.