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Health Insurance & Medicare Coverage Concierge Medicine

Does Health Insurance or Medicare Cover Concierge Medicine?

As more Americans struggle to pay for various types of medical services, many believe the system is simply broken and needs a major overhaul. 

To address the problems of inefficiency, exorbitant treatment costs, and lack of optimal outcomes, many healthcare providers are turning to concierge medical service. A fee-based direct primary care option, this offers a variety of advantages and also some disadvantages to patients and doctors alike.

You Deserve Personalized Service with Extra Care

Rather than continually dealing with the many shortcomings that go along with traditional medical care, many doctors and patients are now viewing concierge services as a viable solution to the healthcare system's problems. Under a concierge plan, doctors who are primary care physicians charge their patients a retainer on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. By doing so, primary care services generally become more affordable, overhead costs are reduced, and preventive care becomes more readily available to patients.

Advantages of Concierge Medicine

As for the advantages of concierge services, there are many. One of the most important involves those patients who are concerned with Medicare coverage guidelines, since this has often been a sticking point in terms of what services patients can or cannot afford. For patients whose doctors use the Fee for Extra Care concierge model, Medicare can be used to cover services not included in the retainer, such as prescription medications and outpatient procedures. In addition, patients have shorter wait times for office visits, which is invaluable for most patients.

Disadvantages of Concierge Medical Service

When it comes to disadvantages of concierge service, the most common is expense. However, at Premier Heart & Vein Care we offer very affordable concierge medical services through our new program, Concierge Choice for a low annual fee of just $100, which comes out to less than five dollars a day. Most patients agree, that is extremely reasonable, considering the time and quality of care!  

Premier Heart & Vein Center Concierge Service

Here at Premier Heart & Vein Center, we are proud to offer a concierge program within our practice that we believe is one of the best you'll find anywhere. A unique hybrid plan, it is one of the few in the nation combining internal medicine, cardiology, and phlebology. Working with our patient's insurance plans when applicable, Premier Heart & Vein Center offers many options under our concierge services. Some of these include direct phone and email access after-hours and on weekends, personalized fitness and nutritional evaluations, same-day and next-day visits, extended and unhurried consultations, and much more.
If you would like to meet our vein physician in San Luis Obispo, CA, there is no better time than now to book an appointment with Premier Heart & Vein Care. To do so, give us a call at 805-979-4777 or visit us online at premierheartandveincare.com/contact/ and fill out the online form. By doing so, you'll be taking the first step to receiving the individualized care you deserve.

What Does An Irregular Heartbeat Feel Like?

What Does An Irregular Heartbeat Feel Like?

Everyone’s heart beats at its own pace, but there are certain patterns that are considered “regular,” verus some anomalies that are considered “irregular.” Having an irregular heartbeat can be dangerous. While the likelihood of developing an irregular heart rhythm increases with age, it can occur to anyone, including the young. If you suspect that you may have an irregular heartbeat, it’s best to consult with a trusted heart and vein care professional. Following is more information about an irregular heartbeat.

How To Look Out For An Irregular Heartbeat

You may have a heartbeat that is not regular without showing any symptoms at all. However, in some cases, symptoms such as fainting or severe chest pains will be present. Medics have stated that since most people may not show signs at all, the surest way of detecting this condition is by regularly checking your pulse. If you are 65 years old or older, you should check your pulse monthly. You can check your pulse at home by placing the tips of two of your fingers (third and fourth) on your lower neck on any side of your windpipe or placing the two fingers on the front side of your other wrist. You will note blood throbbing underneath your fingers. Count all the beats you will feel for at least fifteen seconds and multiply them by four. This multiplication is to help you get your heart rate per minute. A regular resting heart rate is usually 60 beats for every minute for adults.

Signs You May Have Arrhythmia

You can have a range of symptoms when your heartbeat is not regular. These symptoms differ from one individual to another, depending on the heartbeat irregularity. You may note inconsistency if your heartbeat feels like your heart is racing or fluttering. Here are some of the severe symptoms that show your pulse is not normal:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe chest pains
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Rapid chest-pounding
  • Lightheadedness

Is Having an Irregular Heart Rhythm Dangerous?

Many times, having a heartbeat that is not regular is harmless. Nonetheless, it is essential to seek treatment to prevent any further complications. If you have any of the severe symptoms discussed above, you should contact a physician immediately. If left untreated, the condition can lead to severe complications, including sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, or even heart failure.

How To Treat An Irregular Heart Rhythm

If you have an abnormal heartbeat, your doctor will have to identify the irregularity sources or triggers. This may include detailed family history, medical history, information on your lifestyle, and diet. Once the physician has an understanding of the possible triggers, he or she may request specific tests to enable them to come up with a proper diagnosis. Some of the standard tests include:

Once the diagnostic tests are complete, any heart abnormalities will require different treatments, including medications to reduce the number of episodes, specific exercises and movements to lower the risk, and in some cases, ventricular aneurysm surgery to remove a bulge in the blood vessels leading to the heart.

If you are experiencing an abnormal heartbeat, do not wait until it is too late. Book an appointment with Premier Heart & Vein Care and meet our vein physician in San Luis Obispo, CA to have the irregularity checked out and diagnosed.

 

A Guide to VenaSeal™: Everything You Should Know

Varicose veins are no fun. Yet, as we begin to age, many of us begin seeing the appearance of those dark, telltale lines that indicate blood is pooling in our legs and around our ankles instead of returning to the heart as it should. While varicose veins are mostly benign, they may be a sign of a circulatory problem such as chronic venous insufficiency. This means that valves inside the veins of our legs are no longer functioning as they should. This can be due to normal aging, being overweight, or being on our feet too many hours out of the day. VenaSeal™ is a simple solution that can help alleviate the irritation of varicose veins. Book a consult today.

The Amazing Details About VenaSeal™ Procedure

VenaSeal™ is a simple, minimally invasive procedure that your vein specialist performs on an outpatient basis. You're able to return to your regular schedule immediately afterward, and blood flow to your heart from your legs may actually become stronger and healthier as a result. The steps of a VenaSeal™ procedure are simple:

  • You'll receive a shot of a local anesthetic for pain relief near the site of the initial injection.
  • Your vein specialist will make a single incision near the damaged vein and insert a catheter.
  • A special adhesive is pumped into the damaged vein and pressure is applied afterward, effectively sealing the vein.
  • Blood is automatically re-routed to healthy veins nearby, where it can be pumped back to the heart. 
  • The closed veins are harmlessly absorbed by the body, becoming invisible to the eye. 

VenaSeal™ is safe and effective and allows you to return to work immediately. You can drive yourself to and from treatment. It's that minimally invasive, and closed veins will never open up again. 

How Much Does VenaSeal™ Cost? 

The average cost of a VenaSeal™ procedure is around $3,000, but may vary depending upon where you live and other circumstances. This may sound expensive, but in reality, it's a state-of-the-art medical procedure that allows patients to find immediate relief from the pain, itching, and swelling of varicose veins, while alleviating the unsightly bulging, black lines that develop as a result. 

Is VenaSeal™ Covered by Insurance?

Unlike other forms of treatment for chronic venous insufficiency, VenaSeal™ may not be covered by your insurance carrier because it's the newest, most cutting-edge treatment available for closing varicose veins. Before having your procedure, speak with your insurance representative to learn more about coverage. 

If VenaSeal™ is not covered by your insurance carrier, talk with your vein specialist regarding radiofrequency vein ablation (RVA). RVA is normally considered effective treatment for chronic venous insufficiency, and as such, most carriers provide coverage. 

Is VenaSeal™ Covered by Medicare? 

Happily, Medicare often covers at least a percentage of the cost of the VenaSeal™ procedure as long as it's considered medically necessary. Talk with your vein specialist to find out whether your procedure is considered necessary or cosmetic. Because varicose veins can lead to bigger problems such as venous ulcers, seeking treatment is typically recommended. 

Schedule a Consultation Today

When you're ready to find relief for the discomfort and embarrassment of varicose veins, Premier Heart & Vein Care is ready to help. Our dedicated vein specialist is an expert at performing the newest, most scientific treatments for varicose veins, including VenaSeal™. Meet our vein physician in San Luis Obispo, CA, when you book your consultation today.

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.

 

Get Rid of Spider Veins Quickly and Painlessly

When you notice annoying webs of spider veins on your skin, there's no reason to put up with them. You can get rid of spider veins fast with fast, pain-free sclerotherapy at our vein center. Whether your spider veins are on your face, chest, legs or elsewhere, treatment is quick and effective.

Our vein doctor offers a number of minimally invasive vein procedures, including sclerotherapy for spider veins. These high-tech procedures erase your red, blue or purple veins, with no downtime needed. After making the quick stop at our vein center, you can immediately go on with your busy day. 

Does Getting Rid of Spider Veins With Sclerotherapy Hurt?

Most patients consider the procedure to be painless, like most modern vein treatments we offer. Some patients may be a bit squeamish about needles, but they generally relax when shown the tiny, thin needle we use to inject and destroy spider veins. It's nothing like needles used for flu shots or vaccinations you might have had as a child. In some cases, our vein physician may recommend laser vein treatment, where no needle is used.

How Long Does it Take for Spider Veins to Heal After Treatment

Shortly after treatment, the body begins breaking down the collapsed, web-like vein clusters. Over the next few days and weeks, the treated veins will be completely broken down. Then they are carried away for disposal by your body. The first few days after receiving sclerotherapy, you may notice bruises forming. This is simply part of the natural healing process. Any bruises will fade and heal within a few weeks.

Questions to Ask Your Vein Doctor During Your Consultation

You may be wondering what else to know about treating spider veins with sclerotherapy. Our vein doctor is happy to answer any questions before your sclerotherapy treatment. Here are some questions sclerotherapy patients often ask:

  • How does sclerotherapy work to destroy spider veins? During the procedure, our vein doctor injects a chemical solution into the veins, making them shut down and collapse. The solution is safe and mild, often made of sterile saltwater. The injected liquid or foam irritates the vein's lining and it "caves in" so blood can no longer flow into it. The body gradually breaks down the vein.
  • Is sclerotherapy the best option for my case? We offer multiple advanced methods to get rid of problem veins. Our vein doctor will go over your options and may recommend sclerotherapy. If you also have varicose veins or other issues, this may affect which treatment is best for your needs. 
  • Will insurance pay for this vein treatment? Insurance considers spider vein treatments to be cosmetic. It is usually not covered. 
  • Will my spider veins ever come back? No, your treated veins are gone forever, but you may need touch-up treatments for new discolored veins in the future. Individuals who have spider veins tend to keep getting them, especially as you get older. Sun exposure, and even rough scrubbing of the skin, can cause these web-like veins in certain people. You can also inherit the tendency. 

Meet Our Vein Physician in San Luis Obispo, CA

Our friendly and experienced vein doctor, Dr. Ken Stevens, is an expert in non-surgical treatment for spider veins, varicose veins and more serious vein problems. Dr. Stevens founded Premier Heart Care in 2008 and Premier Vein Care in 2010, which are now joined into a single practice serving the San Luis Obispo community.

Let us get rid of your spider veins, the quick and easy way! Contact Premier Heart & Vein Care online or call 805-979-4777 to schedule your consultation today. 

At What Age Do Varicose Veins Usually Appear?

Varicose veins typically strike older adults, but younger people may also be at risk. Here’s why.

As you age, your chances of developing varicose veins increases. But even before you reach age 40, you may still see raised ropes of blue and purple veins on your legs and feet. That’s because varicose veins can strike at any age depending on lifestyle, heredity, and other factors.

Statistically, varicose veins predominantly affect women and older adults. Of the roughly 20 percent of U.S. adults who have varicose veins, 22 million women and 11 million men between the ages of 40 and 80 suffer from the condition. 

Nevertheless, younger people, especially women of childbearing years, can also develop varicose veins. At any age, it’s important to know your risk factors, take measures to protect your vein health, and seek treatment when symptoms interfere with your quality of life.

Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

To understand the risk factors for varicose veins, you first need to know how the veins in your body work. After the arteries circulate oxygenated blood to your tissues and organs, the blood returns to the heart via the veins. Your veins are able to pump blood back to the heart with the help of small valves that push blood upward.

However, if the valves weaken, the blood pools within the veins and stretches the vein walls. This causes the veins to swell out from under the skin and become what we call varicose veins. These veins are more likely to appear on the legs because those valves have to work the hardest to push blood upward against the force of gravity. In addition to their unsightly appearance, varicose veins can also cause uncomfortable symptoms, including pain, swelling, cramping, itching, and an overall feeling of heaviness in the legs.

The likelihood you’ll develop varicose veins stems from many factors, and age is just one of them. Here are the top five reasons varicose veins might appear:

  1. Age. Damaged vein valves are the primary cause of varicose veins — and aging is a major factor in weakening these valves. Consequently, as the valves lose their elasticity and strength, the risk of varicose veins rises.
  2. Pregnancy. About 40 percent of pregnant women develop varicose veins due to hormonal changes. Blood volume surges to nourish the growing fetus, putting more pressure on the veins in the pelvis and legs. At the same time, the pregnancy hormone progesterone widens veins — a leading factor in the formation of enlarged varicose veins. Luckily, the condition usually disappears after delivery.
  3. Heredity. Varicose veins tend to run in families. So if close family members suffer from varicose veins, you’re likely to have them, too.
  4. Hormone Therapy. The hormone estrogen contained in birth control pills or hormone replacement medications prescribed to lessen the symptoms of menopause may increase your risk of developing varicose veins.
  5. Lifestyle. Extra weight adds to the stress put on the veins in your legs and abdomen. A regular exercise routine that focuses specifically on building up calf muscles — such as walking and biking — helps support the veins as they pump blood back to the heart. Further, if you spend hours during the day sitting at a desk, be sure to get your blood flowing again by taking frequent short walks and flexing your ankles while seated.

Fortunately, you can still avoid varicose veins even if you have one of these risk factors. Exercising, wearing compression stockings, elevating your feet several times a day, and maintaining a healthy weight are great self-care methods to lower the risks of varicose veins or reduce the symptoms.

Treating Varicose Veins

Surgical treatment options are also available to eliminate varicose veins. Minimally invasive techniques include sclerotherapy, in which a substance is injected into the damaged vein to force it to close and gradually disappear. Similarly, ablation procedures that collapse the vein with either laser or radiofrequency waves are also popular treatment methods.

You can choose one of the newest techniques to treat varicose veins, as well. One such innovation is VenaSeal. During this procedure, a proprietary adhesive is injected into the damaged vein that closes it, allowing blood to flow to healthier veins. All of these treatments use little to no anesthesia and are done on an outpatient basis.

At Premier Heart and Vein Care, keeping your veins healthy at any age is our top priority. Whether you suffer from varicose veins or believe you are at risk of developing the condition, we will discuss all your treatment options and help you decide on the right one for your individual circumstances. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Should I See a Doctor for My Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can directly impact your health and quality of life — here’s how to know if you’re at risk. 

While varicose veins may not pose an immediate risk for some people, they are a serious health concern for thousands of others. In fact, varicose veins may result in painful leg swelling, numbness, skin ulcers that refuse to heal, infections, excessive bleeding, blood clots, and more. 

These symptoms make it difficult to enjoy daily activities and can, in some cases, be life-threatening. Keep an eye out for the following signs to determine if your varicose veins are putting you at risk:

1. Swollen, Tender Skin

While varicose veins are a common part of the aging process — a result of worn-out valves that are no longer able to effectively pump blood back to the heart — it’s important to pay close attention to your veins as they change. In particular, varicose veins are a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that develops deep within the body.

Signs you may have DVT include cramps, discoloration, swelling, and skin that is red, tight, tender and/or warm to the touch.

2. Legs that Ache, Throb, or Feel Uncharacteristically Weak

Blood that fails to circulate properly and pools in the veins can cause patients to experience persistent aches and pains throughout the day. Others may notice that their legs feel weak or heavy. These symptoms are often heightened during warm weather or as a result of excessive sitting or standing.

It’s important to pay attention to these signs of poor vein health, as they can make day-to-day tasks more difficult, directly impacting your quality of life.

3. Itchy, Dry Skin and/or Discoloration 

Leg ulcers are breaks in the skin, or lesions, that usually impact tissues below the wound. If left untreated, they can cause serious, life-threatening infections.

Dry, itchy skin, discoloration, and/or a rash on your lower legs or around your ankles all indicate poor circulation and warn of an impending ulcer. Other signs of a leg ulcer include swelling and firm skin that feels almost hard to the touch.

Seeking Treatment for Varicose Veins

If you’re experiencing any of the signs and symptoms described above, it’s important to make an appointment with a vein specialist as soon as possible. A vein expert will conduct a comprehensive exam and use the latest in diagnostic equipment to determine the best course of action.

Common forms of modern vein treatments include: 

  • VenaSeal™: VenaSeal is a type of “glue” injected into spider or varicose veins to create a barrier. This barrier prevents blood from entering the unhealthy vein, thus closing it off and relieving many painful vein-related symptoms. 
  • Venefit™: Venefit is designed to treat varicose veins, including those that are larger or located deep within the body. During this procedure, a vascular surgeon threads a thin catheter into the abnormal vein and administers radiofrequency energy. This causes the vein to collapse and shrink.
  • Varithena®: Varithena is the only foam treatment that's been approved by the FDA to treat large leg veins. Once injected into the vein, the foam irritates the vein lining, causing it to close. After treatment, the body redirects blood to neighboring veins so circulation is improved and varicose vein symptoms are resolved.
  • Sclerotherapy: Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat varicose and spider veins. It involves injecting a sclerosant, or solvent, into the damaged veins, causing them to collapse. This outpatient procedure is typically performed in less than an hour.

These are just a few of the many varicose vein treatment options available. Don’t put your health on hold any longer — get in touch with Premier Heart & Vein Care today to set up an appointment with a vein specialist.

What Causes an Irregular Heartbeat?

An arrhythmia occurs when the heart is beating too quickly, too slowly, or in an irregular pattern. What causes this condition and how can it be treated?

When the electrical impulses that control blood flow in the heart misfire, you may experience an irregular heartbeat. Known as a heart arrhythmia, this condition causes your heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or otherwise erratically.

A normal resting heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute. A heart rate faster than 100 beats per minute is classified as tachycardia, or a fast heart rate. A heart rate slower than 60 beats is called bradycardia. A slower than normal heart rate may not be a reason for concern since many athletes have slow heart rates due to being in peak physical condition. Medication to control high blood pressure may also cause bradycardia.

The most common type of heart arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, or AFib. If you have AFib, the upper chambers of the heart (the atrias) don’t pump blood properly to the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2.7 million to 6.1 million people in the U.S. suffer from AFib. Knowing the signs of an irregular heartbeat and discussing any symptoms with a doctor can help ensure that your heart remains healthy.

Causes of an Irregular Heartbeat

Besides an erratic pulse or racing heart palpitations, common symptoms of a heart arrhythmia include shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, pale skin, or feeling dizzy and light-headed. Heart arrhythmias put you at risk of a stroke or heart disease, so any unusual heartbeat should be checked by a doctor.

To diagnose an arrhythmia, an echocardiogram (EKG) measures electrical activity in your heart. Or, you can wear a Holter monitor which records your heart rate throughout the day. Lastly, a stress test to check how your heart performs when exercising may be done. This test takes place on a treadmill as you walk or jog.

Heart arrhythmias can be attributed to a number of factors, such as blocked arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes, congenital heart defects, and sleep apnea. Lifestyle also impacts our heart health. Smoking, caffeine, excessive drinking, and stress have all been linked to an irregular heartbeat. An arrhythmia could even be a sign of a heart attack — and if that’s the case, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Arrhythmias can also be brought on by certain prescription drugs and cold medications. In addition, the electrolyte levels in your blood — substances such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium that control the electrical activity in your heart — may be too high or too low, which leads to an irregular heartbeat. People with an underactive or overactive thyroid have a greater chance of suffering heart arrhythmias, as well.

Treatment for Arrhythmia

If your symptoms are diminishing your quality of life or your doctor believes you may be at risk for complications due to an arrhythmia, you’ll begin a treatment program. This may include medication to control your heart rate or an implantable device like a pacemaker. Inserted under the skin near the collarbone, the pacemaker jolts the heart to a normal heart rate when it detects an abnormal rhythm.

A minor surgical procedure — a catheter ablation — has been used to treat arrhythmias. This procedure pulses heat, radiofrequency waves, or cold through a thin catheter into the heart tissue to short-circuit the area where the irregular heartbeat originates. Heart surgery is recommended only when other methods have failed to regulate your heart rate.

Along with medical treatment, your doctor may advise lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, following an exercise routine, eating a heart-healthy diet, and practicing stress reduction will maintain your heart health and prevent cardiovascular problems in the future.

Let Us Care for Your Heart

If you notice your heart rate is irregular or experience other cardiac symptoms, the physicians and staff at Premier Heart & Vein Care employ a variety of diagnostic tools to determine what may be causing your arrhythmia. We’ll then prescribe a treatment program to maintain your cardiovascular fitness. Your heart health is important to us — find how our compassionate, knowledgeable staff can help by making an appointment today.

 

What Are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition that affects your lymph nodes and causes your limbs to swell. Learn the symptoms so that you can identify it early and take steps to keep it from worsening. 

Lymphedema is a condition where one of your arms or legs, or possibly both of them, swells up. It is often caused by the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes, which causes a blockage in your lymphatic system that prevents fluid from draining effectively. This fluid then builds up, resulting in swelling in your limbs.

There are two types of lymphedema: primary and secondary. Primary is especially rare, and is caused by the absence of certain lymph nodes at birth. Secondary is more common, and is the result of damage to your lymphatic system, which can happen during surgery, infection, or cancer treatment.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for lymphedema. However, early diagnosis and careful care for your affected limb can help you manage the condition.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

The most obvious symptom of lymphedema is the swelling of either all or part of your arm or leg, including your fingers and toes. This swelling can range from mild to severe, and may appear months or years after lymphatic injury.

Other symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • A restricted range of motion
  • General aching or discomfort
  • Feelings of tightness or heaviness
  • Fibrosis, a thickening and hardening of the skin tissue 
  • Recurring wounds and infections

It’s important to properly care for your affected limb, as the smallest injury can become an entry point for serious infection. Two common types of infections for people with lymphedema are lymphangitis, which is an infection of the lymph vessels, and cellulitis, which is a serious bacterial infection of the skin.

Treatment for Lymphedema

Unfortunately, chronic lymphedema cannot be cured. However, there are a number of treatment options that can help reduce discomfort and prevent the condition from worsening. These are particularly important given that untreated lymphedema can lead to decreased mobility and function of the affected limb as well as increased swelling and infection.

The best practices for treatment are:

  • Wearing compression garments on the affected limb or utilizing other compression devices.
  • Elevating the limb whenever possible. 
  • Engaging in gentle exercise through muscle contraction. 
  • Getting massage therapy to help with fluid drainage. 
  • Avoiding situations that might result in injury given that small wounds can open you up to major infections. 
  • Being especially mindful of hygiene. 
  • Avoiding heat or extreme cold.

Some of these best practices focus on preventing infection. If you do get a wound in a limb affected by lymphedema, it’s important that you act quickly to prevent infection. Gentle scrubbing and irrigation of the wound is critical as is the aggressive administration of antibiotics to prevent cellulitis. Non-adhesive, compression dressings can also help the wound heal.

If you believe you might have lymphedema, or if you have any questions about the condition, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with the specialists at Premier Heart & Vein Care. We can help you navigate the condition and determine the best treatment options for you.

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