Could I be at risk for PAD?

Baird PAD risk

Vascular diseases range from diseases of the arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. Among the most common types of vascular disease are peripheral vascular disease (PVD), peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease. The terms peripheral vascular disease and peripheral artery disease are often used interchangeably, but we discuss both here. Many of the problems we diagnose and treat involve peripheral vascular disease in one degree or another.

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. That 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.”

PAD 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.

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.

5 Symptoms of Vascular Disease

Baird vascular leg pain

Vascular medicine and surgery primarily focuses on diseases and disorders of the peripheral vascular system: feet, hands, legs and arms. The health of the peripheral vascular system has a major impact on the health of your overall circulatory system and your overall health, and a vascular screening can reveal the first signs of more serious problems, which is why we offer comprehensive screenings to all our patients.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood back and forth through a complex system of vessels, called the circulatory, or vascular system. These arteries and veins, ranging from very large to microscopic, are elastic tubes that carry the blood to and from every part of the body. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs through arteries, and veins carry the blood back to the heart into the lungs, which remove CO2 and other waste from the blood and replenish it with fresh oxygen. This cycle supplies all the muscles, organs and tissues of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they need to work.

Vascular disease can cause these vessels to narrow, harden, swell, form blood clots or get partially or entirely blocked. When this happens, the tissues fed by these vessels are robbed of the oxygen and nutrients. Sometimes pain in the affected area will signal a problem. At other times, vascular disease shows few symptoms as it worsens over time, sometimes with serious consequences.

Although usually associated with older people, vascular disease can affect almost anyone and may present itself in all areas of the body.

Vascular diseases range from diseases of the arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. Among the most common types of vascular disease are peripheral vascular disease (PVD), peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease. The terms peripheral vascular disease and peripheral artery disease are often used interchangeably. Many of the problems we diagnose and treat involve peripheral vascular disease in one degree or another.

Some symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  1. Cramping and pain in the legs and buttocks, indicating poor circulation in the legs.
  2. Fatigue, heaviness and discomfort during exercise or activity that generally goes away when the activity stops or you are resting. This is called “intermittent claudication.”
  3. Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising
  4. Foot or toe wounds that don’t heal or heal very slowly
  5. A decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot, particularly compared to the other leg or the rest of your body.

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.

Safe sun tips for outdoor lovers

Baird Outdoor lovers

A few weeks back, we wrote about minimizing skin cancer risks. These were great basic tips for everyone. But what if you’re someone who truly lives to be outdoors – hiking, running, kayaking, skiing, ice fishing – all of it? Scorching sun? No problem. Below freezing? Bring it. How do you enjoy all the outdoor activities you love, while still protecting your skin?

Here’s the obvious first answer – sunscreen. Apply early, liberally and often. If you’re going to be in the water, use one with a higher water resistance.

Beyond that, remember to wear sunglasses. The sun can do damage to your eyes as well as your skin. Wearing sunglasses helps protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays, and also the sensitive skin around your eyes. Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses aren’t just for sunny days either, remember to wear them on overcast days, especially any time you’re on or near the water to protect your eyes from reflected light.

Lightweight, long sleeved fabrics, also provide great protection from the sun. Also gaining popularity are fabrics and outdoor clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. A UPF rating is specifically for apparel, and like sunscreen’s SPF rating, the higher the UPF rating, the more effective the garment is in protecting you from the sun. Many manufacturers are catering to the sports enthusiast market with UPF rated clothing for your specific interest. Have a hard time remembering to reapply sunscreen? There are fitness shirts, hats, jackets, swimwear and more that are cool, comfortable and specifically designed for protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Consider the time of day when planning your outdoor activities. Choose early morning or later in the evening to avoid the hours between 10am and 2pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Choose shaded areas under awnings or trees if your activity allows, or consider other means of shade (such as a beach umbrella) if it’s possible to set up your own equipment.

Remember that skin protection is not just for warm weather, either. The sun’s reflection off of ice and snow means that everyone from skiers, snowboarders, ice fishermen and sledders also need sunscreen and eye protection.

Why you shouldn’t ignore vascular issues

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People often ignore or brush off certain symptoms as “minor” when it comes to their health. Many times, vascular issues are indicative of a larger problem, or more serious illness. Here are some issues that you should definitely speak to your physician about.

Leg pain: Pains that start in your legs with walking or other exertion could be a sign of peripheral artery disease (PAD), which often goes hand-in-hand with coronary artery disease.

Varicose veins: Varicose veins are not just an unsightly cosmetic annoyance, but also an indication that the veins in your legs are not working the way they should. Untreated varicose veins can lead to more serious issues including blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

There are more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, providing the network for the flow of oxygen and nutrients required by the body for good health. VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute has the latest in technology and techniques to diagnose and treat vascular disease. If we uncover signs of vascular disease, our experts can develop a custom treatment plan for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Cleveland Clinic, VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute

Vascular disease runs in my family. What are some things I can do to stay healthy?

 

Vascular disease is the general term for conditions that affect the blood vessels, including heart attack, stroke and coronary artery disease.

Vascular disease is not limited to older adults; it can strike anyone at any age, at any time. If there is a family history of vascular disease, patients should be especially diligent to stay healthy.

You can improve your overall health and risk of developing vascular disease by following these health guidelines.

  • Don’t smoke. And if you do smoke, stop immediately. This also goes for other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, pipes and smokeless tobacco
  • Adopt healthy eating habits, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Avoid excess sugar, sodium, fat and red meat
  • Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes, four to six times per week
  • Reduce stress, through exercise, meditation or other efforts
  • If you are a diabetic, keep your blood sugar levels under control
  • Take medications if you need them to help lower your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure
  • Get regular checkups from your doctor, and make sure your doctor knows of your family history

 

 

Sources:          Vascular Cures, MedicineNet.com

 

Why would someone need a vascular ultrasound?

Vascular ultrasound is a noninvasive ultrasound method used in vascular screening to evaluate your blood circulation. A vascular ultrasound may also be called a duplex study since it combines traditional ultrasound and Doppler ultrasound.

  • Traditional ultrasound uses sound waves that bounce off blood vessels to create pictures.
  • Doppler ultrasound records sound waves reflecting off moving objects, such as blood, to measure their speed and other aspects of how they flow.

Ultrasound is noninvasive, meaning the vascular screening exam does not require the use of needles, dyes, radiation or anesthesia. Ultrasound imaging uses a small transducer or probe, and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the body. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image. Since different tissues of the body, such as muscle, bone, and blood vessels have different densities, they show up differently on the image.

Your physician may recommend that you have this vascular screening exam to evaluate the blood flow to specific organs in your body. Vascular ultrasound can be used to evaluate:

  • Blockages to blood flow, such as clots
  • Stenosis or narrowing of vessels, which may be caused by plaque or emboli
  • Tumors, congenital vascular malformations or aneurysms
  • Blood flow to organs and tissues throughout the body
  • Confirm that a blood vessel graft or bypass is working properly
  • Source and severity of varicose veins

Ultrasounds are generally quick and virtually pain-free. The technologists at the VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute are highly skilled and certified to perform vascular screening ultrasound exams. They work in close collaboration with our physicians to provide the most accurate and useful imaging possible to help diagnose and treat your condition.

 

5 reasons you should treat varicose veins

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  1. Although varicose veins may not cause problems, sometimes they cause aching pain, throbbing, and discomfort in the legs, and occasionally, varicose veins can lead to more serious health concerns.
  2. The unsightly nature of varicose veins may make patients less likely to engage in warm weather activities they not only enjoy, but are also good methods of exercise, because they are embarrassed by the appearance of their legs.
  3. Treating varicose veins may mean doing away with compression stockings or other restrictive, uncomfortable methods of long-term treatment.
  4. When home remedies such as compression stockings, elevating the legs, and avoiding long periods of continuous standing or sitting are no longer relieving the symptoms, it may be time to consider other options.
  5. Finally, today’s treatments are less invasive, less painful and require much less recovery time than treatments of the past.

How long should a port placement take, and what should I expect?

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VCU Baird Vascular Institute is strictly an outpatient facility, meaning that with all procedures, you should be able to go home the same day. The procedures and recovery time can vary from 45 minutes to a few hours, depending on your unique case. Generally, a port placement takes between 1 to 2 hours.

You may be given medication to help you relax. For the procedure, two incisions are made, one in the chest and one near the collarbone. A needle will be inserted into the skin, creating a tunnel. The port is placed in the tunnel with the tip of the catheter in a large vein near the heart. Imaging equipment will help the physician find the best location for your port placement. You will be monitored by a physician and nurse before, during and after the procedure.

 

Source: Hopkinsmedicine.org

What’s involved in a Vascular Health Screening?

Vascular disease is a broad term that describes a number of conditions of the circulatory system that affect millions of Americans each year.

According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, “Sometimes people who have potentially threatening vascular disease may not be aware of its presence because warning symptoms have not yet developed. For this reason, vascular screening is used as a method to detect the presence of serious vascular disease in the general population before it has a chance to cause harm.”

Vascular diseases range from diseases of the arteries, veins and lymph vessels, to blood disorders that affect circulation. When disease occurs in the arteries, less blood is delivered to the tissues, reducing the oxygen and nutrients needed by the tissues of the body. Types of vascular disease include coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

Diagnosis of vascular disease is made on the basis of your medical history and symptoms, but generally begins with a physical exam. Your healthcare provider will begin by checking for weak pulses in the legs. Your physical examination may also include the following:

  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI): the ABI is a painless exam that compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in your arms to determine how well your blood is flowing. This inexpensive test takes only a few minutes and can be performed by your healthcare professional as part of a routine exam. Normally, the ankle pressure is at least 90 percent of the arm pressure, but with severe narrowing it may be less than 50 percent. If there is an abnormal difference between the blood pressure of the ankle and arm, you may require more testing. Your doctor may recommend one of the following tests:
  • Doppler and Ultrasound (Duplex) imaging: is a non-invasive method that visualizes the artery with sound waves and measures the blood flow in an artery to indicate the presence of a blockage.
  • Angiography: This procedure is generally reserved for use in conjunction with vascular treatment procedures. During an angiogram, a contrast agent is injected into the artery and X-rays are taken to show blood flow, arteries in the legs and to pinpoint any blockages that may be present.

How should a patient prepare for a vascular screening?

  1. Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to your condition.
  2. Write down key personal information, including a family history.
  3. Make a list of all medications, including OTCs (over-the counter), vitamins and supplements that you’re taking.
  4. Write down questions you want to ask the doctor. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. Some basic questions to ask include:
  • What is likely causing my symptoms?
  • What are other possible causes for my condition?
  • What kinds of tests will I need?
  • What are the risks and benefits of the tests and the treatment plan you recommend?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you’re suggesting?
  • Are there any diet or activity restrictions that I need to follow, either for the tests or the treatment?
  • Should I see a specialist, and if so can VCU Baird Vascular Institute recommend a specialist?
  • What is the cost of the tests and the treatments?
  • Does insurance usually cover the tests and treatments? (You will need to ask your insurance provider directly for specific information about coverage.)
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me?
  • What websites do you recommend visiting for more information about my condition?