Why you should talk to your doctor about PAD

PAD, or peripheral artery disease, affects about 8 million Americans. It 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. 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.

So how do you know if you’re at risk for PAD? “Unfortunately, with PAD, sometimes there are factors that the patient can control and sometimes not. Sometimes it runs in the family and your risk factors are genetic,” said Dr. Jeffrey Elbich. “Other risk factors include advanced age, male gender, smoking, especially those with a long smoking history, and people with other medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension.”

Dr. Elbich explained some symptoms to watch out for. “A typical patient will describe walking for a few block and being affected by sudden painful cramps in the legs and thighs that resolve after a period of rest.” He continued, “For every one person who has symptoms, there are three to four who have no symptoms at all. If you have some of the risk factors we just mentioned, it’s important to talk to your doctor and be screened.”

The screening involves a review of the patient’s medical history and any symptoms, followed by a physical exam. “You physician will preform an ABI, or ankle brachial index which measures the blood pressure in your arms, compared to the blood pressure in your ankles,” said Dr. Elbich. “If it’s significantly different, that indicates a blockage in your legs and is indicative of PAD.”

Many peripheral vascular conditions can be diagnosed and treated on an outpatient basis by the interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons here at VCU Baird Vascular Institute. If you want to learn more about peripheral artery disease 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.

3 nonsurgical ways to cover unsightly leg veins

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Warm weather is here, and with it comes shorter hemlines, lighter fabrics and more skin showing. Unfortunately, 20 percent of all adults, and 50 percent of adults over 50, experience varicose veins, predominantly women. If the unsightly veins on your legs embarrass you, there are a few natural remedies to help.

Makeup. Today, there are a number of high-quality makeup formulas designed to temporarily hide significant skin imperfections. These long lasting products can cover a variety of discolorations and irregularities such as scars, birthmarks, veins and even tattoos. Even your own makeup concealer can be used to cover small areas, but if you have larger areas to cover, there are products for that as well.

Self-tanners. We’ve talked about minimizing skin cancer risks here in the past, so we’re already big fans of any sunless tanning options. But did you know that sunless tanning products can also minimize the appearance of varicose and spider veins? Self-tanning creams and lotions can help cover scars and light veins, and even make skin dimples, cellulite and protruding veins less conspicuous. The bronzing reflects light and evens the overall skin tone and greatly improves appearance. Besides, who doesn’t love a little tan color for those summer picnics and events?

Stockings. Even though stockings are not the first option that comes to mind when you think of summer, you might want to think again. Today’s compression stockings offer a multitude of cute and fashionable options to wear with shorts and skirts. They look like regular knee-high socks, but offer coverage of any discolored or protruding leg veins, as well as the added benefits of compression for pain relief, improved circulation and slowing the progression of vein irregularity.

However, if you’re just simply tired of trying to find new ways to camouflage your embarrassing leg veins, give us a call and let’s see what we can do for you. Our vascular specialists are experts in evaluating and treating varicose veins, from unsightly spider veins using new, gentle and highly effective treatments to the relief of more serious, painful and even dangerous major varicose veins. Our vascular surgeons and interventional radiologists work hand in hand to treat patients with varicose using today’s most advanced technology and procedures, with your treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

3 Famous Athletes Who Have Dealt With Plantar Fasciitis Issues.

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Celebrity athletes – they’re just like us! Well, in some ways. Even with their glamorous high-profile lifestyles, famous athletes can be sidelined by everyday ailments just like all of us. Here are 3 recognizable names that have dealt with the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

Quarterback Eli Manning was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in 2009. With rest and rehabilitation, Eli is still in the game today.

Way back in 2001, Shaquille O’Neal, an NBA MVP, missed that year’s All-Star game due to a strained foot. Shaq’s size 21 shoe took quite a beating on the hardwoods, but again, with time and rehab, was able to maintain his game for another 10 years before retiring in 2011.

Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls continued to play despite the pain through the NBA playoffs in 2013, but admitted “It feels like you have needles underneath your feet while you’re playing.”

At VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute, we’ve been helping patients overcome the pain and frustration of plantar fasciitis with a non-invasive procedure called image-guided tendon treatment. Whether you’re a famous athlete, or an infamous slow jogger, we can help relieve the pain and get you back to the top of your game.

Useful Apps for Cancer Patients

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Modern technology can be an amazing tool to help with our daily lives. Today, even cancer patients can find a variety of useful apps to assist in their treatment and recovery by monitoring symptoms, storing data, providing information and support. Of course, nothing can or should take the place of your physician and care team’s advice, but here are a few apps that may help keep and organize your data and assist in other ways as you navigate the course of your illness.

Cancer.net Mobile

Developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), this app provides easy-to-use tools to help you plan and manage care – from diagnosis through treatment and beyond, and is provided by Cancer.Net. It includes the latest oncologist-approved cancer information.

Pocket Cancer Care Guide

Provided by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the Pocket Cancer Care Guide is an app that allows you to quickly and easily build lists of practical questions used to guide conversations between you and your doctors and nurses. Users can browse hundreds of questions in categories relevant to stages of your cancer diagnosis, build lists of questions to use when talking to your doctor or nurse, link doctor appointments to your lists and automatically add it to your calendar and record and playback your doctor’s or nurse’s answers. There’s also a glossary of medical terms for reference.

My Cancer Coach

This app, by Genomic Health, Inc., is a free mobile app developed in partnership with BreastCancer.org, Men’s Health Network, and Fight Colorectal Cancer. The app provides specific information about personalized cancer treatments to help manage your cancer’s progression. It’s like having ‘Cancer 101’ in your pocket. Questions about your stage of cancer? Should you get surgery? Is radiation necessary? Do you need chemotherapy? Is your cancer metastatic? My Cancer Coach provides easy-to-understand treatment information for breast, prostate, and colon cancer patients and their caregivers.

Create To Heal

This app is brought to you by The Women Wings Foundation Create to Heal (TM) program. It is designed to gently take you from your head into your heart, where the healing process begins. Because stress is the number one contributor to all major diseases, including cancer, the goal of this app is to provide patients with relief from stress through the use of beautiful imagery, sounds and words.

The Create to Heal (TM) guided meditations, music and art have been tested in several hospitals and cancer centers over a period of 5 years, with hundreds of cancer patients, survivors and their families. This app gives patients the tools to continue their creative therapy and stress reduction at home, at work, wherever they are. The app offers 10 music tracks, 4 guided meditations, 36 pieces of art, and 60+ inspirational messages.

My Medical

My Medical is a comprehensive record-keeping app for your personal medical information. The app offers autocompletion and autosuggestion for a wealth of medical jargon, including prescription drug names; vaccinations; common afflictions; life support options; laboratory units; and much more.

In addition, there are areas for emergency contacts, health insurance, doctors’ contact information, and other data that are not strictly part of a traditional personal health record (PHR) are all available. It will put doctor’s appointments and upcoming lab tests on your calendar. You can even set reminder alarms directly from the app, without ever going into your calendar. Finally, the app offers an area for files to be attached to your record. For example, you can add a picture of the pill next to a medication, or a copy of your insurance card alongside a provider’s contact information.

iHealth Log

iHealth Log helps individuals with chronic health issues manage their disease.  All medications and dosages are easily maintained along with important prescription details including a photograph of the medication and physician and pharmacy information.  The diary tracks daily medications and measurements which are critical to disease management.  iHealth Log makes it easy to email lists of medications to schools, summer camps and health care providers and it has reporting capabilities to plot measurement data and send this data via email to the physician.

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.

Practicing mindfulness during cancer treatment

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Mindfulness is a common buzzword floating around many online sites these days. What is mindfulness, and what does it do?

Mindfulness is defined as:

“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

By the textbook definition, mindfulness sounds a great deal like meditation, a technique used for centuries to clear the mind, de-stress the body and improve focus and concentration. But mindfulness takes meditation a step further and asks the practitioner to incorporate mindfulness throughout the day, rather than mediate for a few moments at the beginning or ending of each day. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present, where you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance – without judging them good or bad.

According to the website Cancer Forward, “there are many studies about mindfulness and its benefits for cancer patients. They show positive improved psychological functioning, reduction of stress symptoms, enhanced coping and wellbeing in cancer outpatients. This adds up to a greater sense of peace, ease, and resiliency while living with cancer. The stillness that comes with mindfulness meditation fosters deep, physical relaxation and an opening of the heart.”

Anyone can practice mindfulness. It takes no special equipment, training or locations. All it takes is a willingness to learn and turn inward to acknowledge feelings and the present day. Many websites feature detailed ideas on how to get started, or ask a healthcare practitioner for direction.

By practicing this technique, it allows the mind to better cope with the day-to-day stresses, anxiety and negativity that creeps into the day.

Is image-guided treatment right for me?

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“Excruciating.” That’s the word every active person uses to tell us about the pain of “runner’s heel” (plantar fasciitis), “tennis elbow” and other tendon injuries. That little twinge you felt on your daily jog or practicing your forehand has now become a knife-sharp sting in the exact same spot with every step or every swing you take, every day. It’s impossible to ignore the pain…and you shouldn’t. Tendon injuries need attention. Sometimes, rest, therapy and a change in activities may ease the pain…but often the damage is permanent, and only gets worse.

Until now. Using precision ultrasound imaging guidance and a minimally invasive treatment, we can delicately remove the damaged tendon tissue and get you back to the activities you love in a matter of weeks – with little to no pain.

If you answer yes to these questions, it may be time to discuss our image-guided tendon treatment.

  • Have you given up any activities due to tendon pain?
  • Have you been suffering for three months or longer?
  • Have you taken multiple steps to get rid of your pain without lasting success?
  • Are you tired of masking the pain or enduring it rather than treating it at the source?

Sometimes you can cope with tendon injuries with ice, rest, physical therapy and other treatments – particularly if you stop the repetitive activity and rest as soon as you feel the very first twinges. More often than not, people try coping with the growing pain, on the job or at play. However, if the damage doesn’t heal properly, or if you continue the activity and increase the damage, you risk long-term injury, constant pain – and giving up an activity you love.

If you’re frustrated with chronic tendon pain or have tried multiple treatment options, image-guided tendon treatment – also called percutaneous tenotomy or fasciotomy – could be the treatment you need for rapid pain relief. Unlike other medical or physical therapies, this procedure safely removes the cause of the pain at the source, and unlike many traditional surgical procedures, it is far less invasive, requires far less recovery time – and has a much higher success rate.

The treatment may require only a local anesthetic and a tiny incision, and is virtually pain-free. We use a targeted application of ultrasound energy to break down the damaged tendon tissue while leaving surrounding healthy tissue untouched.

Most people won’t need any further treatment, such as physical therapy. You wear a walking boot for a week or two while the area heals. The most common post-procedure problem reported is some soreness, which can generally be treated with over-the-counter pain medication and typically lasts less than a week. In a recent study, doctors reported no other side effects. More than 35,000 people have had the treatment since 2012, with a high rate of satisfaction. In most cases, patients are back to the activities they love in six weeks or less.

We treat a range of common tendinitis or tendinosis conditions that can take you out of action:

  • “Runner’s heel” (plantar fasciosis or fasciitis)
  • “Tennis or golfer’s elbow” (lateral or medial epicondylosis of the elbow)
  • Achilles tendinosis

If you’re been coping with tendon pain, it may be time for us to help you get back in action.