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Everything You Need to Know About Carotid Artery Stenosis

Carotid artery stenosis, or better known simply as carotid artery disease, occurs when the two main arteries — one located on each side of the neck — that carry blood from the heart to the brain and head narrow. This condition is typically caused by a gradual buildup of plaque within the artery, which over time leads in the narrowing of it. If untreated, this disease can increase the likelihood of a stroke, which can result in permanent long-term medical issues and even death.

What causes carotid stenosis? Being the disease is progressive, it's largely a combination of a number of factors over time. Those who suffer from medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with carotid artery stenosis. Smoking is another risk factor. In this post, we'll cover everything that you should know about carotid artery disease, from its early symptoms to how it's treated to how to prevent it. Here's a look:

Early Symptoms of Carotid Artery Stenosis

In some cases, carotid stenosis may be an unknown health condition and not evident until an individual experiences signs of a stroke or suffers an actual stroke. In other situations, an annual medical physical exam may suggest to a doctor that there's an issue, which may be followed up with a specialty test, like a carotid ultrasound. And in other cases, there are tell-tale signs and symptoms that individuals and healthcare professionals alike can take note of that may indicate a problem. Here's a look at some of the early symptoms of carotid artery stenosis to be on the lookout for:

  • Difficulty seeing suddenly or blindness.
  • Slurring speech without alcohol consumption or other obvious causes.
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in the face and/or arm and/or leg.
  • Inability to speak or understand speech.
  • Confusion and memory problems.

Treating Carotid Artery Stenosis

The good news about carotid artery stenosis is that it's treatable and certain lifestyle choices can make living with the disease more manageable. Mild cases can even be treated with over-the-counter medications, like aspirin, which can help decrease the likelihood of blood clotting and reduce the risk of stroke. More severe blockages typically involve a more invasive surgical procedure where an endarterectomy is performed to remove plaque buildup within the artery and restore normal blood flow.

As we hinted above, following a carotid artery stenosis, individuals should make immediate changes to their lifestyle, which may include quitting smoking, adopting a healthier diet, exercising more and taking medication to treat conditions that may be aiding in plaque buildup. Eating healthy is particularly important, and a steady diet of fruits and vegetables don't just provide antioxidants, reduce inflammation and strengthen connective tissue, but stimulate blood flow throughout the body as well. A good diet isn't just important for heart health, but vein health as well. 

How to Prevent Carotid Artery Stenosis and Other Vein Issues

As we noted above, the best way to prevent carotid artery stenosis is to live a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise and refrain from any lifestyle habits — like smoking — that could lead to long-term health issues. Additionally, preventative medical care is key to catching certain health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that could lead to the sudden onset of carotid artery stenosis. 

Contact Premier Heart and Vein Care for More Information

One of the ways to diagnose carotid artery stenosis is via a carotid ultrasound, a non-invasive, safe procedure where images of the body's internal structures are taken and can be analyzed to assess the carotid artery's overall health in real-time. At Premier Heart and Vein Care, we're proud to offer this type of test as a way to carefully examine the health of the carotid artery. Contact us today, and we'll be happy to introduce you to Dr. Ken Stevens, our industry-leading vein physician. Contact our office today for more information.

Why Do Pregnant Women Get Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are common during pregnancy, but usually fade after delivery. Follow these tips to manage the discomfort and make your pregnancy as pleasant as possible.

Awaiting the birth of a child is often a joyous time. But for 40 percent of pregnant women, it comes with an uncomfortable side effect: varicose veins.

Shortly after childbirth, pregnancy-related varicose veins tend to disappear, and for that reason, don’t require medical intervention. But while you’re carrying your baby, you may experience the uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins — pain, swelling, cramping, and tired legs. Fortunately, alleviating those symptoms can be accomplished with some simple, at-home remedies.

Why Varicose Veins Appear During Pregnancy

Changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy may lead to the development of bulging, twisting varicose veins. When carrying a baby, the body produces excess blood to nourish both the mother and the fetus. This occurs at the same time the pregnancy hormone progesterone weakens the vein walls, making it harder for the veins to manage that extra volume of blood. A third factor is the additional weight the growing baby puts on the abdominal veins, which, in turn, slows circulation between the pelvis and the heart.

All of these components strain the vein valves whose job it is to return blood to the heart. These tiny flaps become overwhelmed by the force of gravity when pumping blood from the legs up to the heart. Eventually, the veins swell under the skin and appear as protruding varicose veins.

Treating Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

Besides the legs, varicose veins may also develop on the vulva and rectum as hemorrhoids. Although surgical treatment isn’t necessary because the varicose veins will typically recede after delivery, you should alert your doctor to the condition, especially if there are any skin changes or if the veins bleed. Varicose veins can increase the risk of blood clots, so you’ll need to be monitored for that, too.

During your pregnancy, try these self-care tips to manage any discomfort. Each can help counteract the swelling, pain, and cramping that comes along with varicose veins.

  1. Stay Active. Always check with your doctor about which exercises are safe, but walking and swimming are common low-impact workouts that strengthen the calf muscles. When you work your calf muscles, you’re also helping the vein valves push blood back to the heart.
  2. Don’t Sit or Stand For Too Long. Sitting or standing for long hours adds pressure to already stressed veins. Give yourself — and your veins — a break by taking brief strolls periodically or flexing your ankles while you sit.
  3. Put Your Feet Up. An easy way to encourage blood flow back to the chest is by elevating your legs above your heart several times a day. Doing so makes it easier for your veins to circulate blood freely between the extremities and the heart.
  4. Ditch the High Heels. Instead of heels, switch to flats that work the calf muscles when you walk. Also avoid tight-fitting garments, especially around the waist. Tightly cinching your waist will block blood flow between the inferior vena cava (a large vein in the abdomen) and the extremities.
  5. Sleep on Your Left Side. Your sleeping position can either help — or hinder — your circulation. To relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava and boost blood flow, sleep on your left side. 
  6. Wear Compression Stockings. These tightly woven socks provide the extra support your veins need to pump blood back to the heart. By compressing the veins, the stockings prevent blood from pooling in the legs.
  7. Stock Up on Vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a vital role in your circulatory system. That’s because your body uses it to produce collagen, a substance that repairs and keeps blood vessels strong.

Visit the Vein Specialists

If your varicose veins don’t go away within a year after delivery, or you want to know more about how to take care of your varicose veins while pregnant, visit the vein specialists at Premier Heart and Vein Care. We’ll discuss all your surgical and non-surgical treatment options. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

 

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