Benjamin J. Makamson, D.O.
Lee C. Ferguson, D.O.
Michael B. Hogan, M.D.
Ralph B. Pfeiffer, Jr., M.D.

Proudly Serving Mobile, Alabama & Surrounding Areas

Vascular Associates of South Alabama

Give us a call today!

251.410.8272

Facebook Link Twitter Link

blog

Vascular Associates Blog

rss

Tips for vascular health


User
User
's Blog
Behaviors That May Reduce Your Chances of a Stroke.png

You’re waking up from a great night out with family or friends.  Food, drinks, dancing, and most importantly, laughter were the menu of the evening.  You stretch as you rise and think to yourself, “didn’t Bill tell some funny stories at the dinner table…” Suddenly, things get a little fuzzy, wobbly, out of focus.  Your head is pounding.  You reach out for the wall to steady yourself, but your legs feel weak, your face numb and tingly.  You want to call out for help, but the words won’t come.  Panic sets in, and the harder you try, the more difficult the simplest tasks become.  

 

Just then, someone nearby hears a noise and comes to check and see if you are feeling the after-effects of all that dancing when they see you and know something is terribly wrong…

 

If you’re lucky, you won’t be one of the nearly 800,000 people in the United States that suffers a stroke every year.  You won’t be one of those that has a stroke in the U.S. about every 40 seconds.  If you did experience one, you’ll be lucky if your stroke is not one of the approximately 87% that blocks blood flow to the brain, often causing permanent damage or disability. 

 

Does the scenario just described or the stroke statistics sound like something out of a scary movie?  It may be the season for it, but these frightening figures and effects of a stroke are real. Very, very real.

 

Consider This

 

Not including the current pandemic, strokes are the fourth leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. and are a major contributor to disability.  However, we are a rugged bunch, an independent, pull yourself up by the bootstraps kind of folks, so we often discount symptoms (like mini-strokes, which are a temporary lack of blood to the brain).  And though all indications point to a stroke, we often won’t head for the nearest treatment facility. However, that poor decision could very well change the course of your life.  

 

There Is A Way

 

So, now that we’ve covered some terrifying information and possibilities, let’s talk about how we can reduce the chance for a stroke while at the same time improving our quality of life.  After all, any age is much too young to have a stroke.

 

Walking.  A walk – pace quickened a little, will do wonders for reducing the chances for a stroke by reducing body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol.  Leading health organizations recommend about 30 minutes of light to vigorous aerobic exercise a day for 5 days a week for adults. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also look better, and your opportunity for being a stroke statistic nosedive.

 

In addition to walking or other forms of exercise, you can lower your heart rate by changing your eating habits.  Lower the salt, eat healthier, and drink plenty of water, and suddenly your feeling 16 again! Okay, maybe not 16, but you will notice a pep in your step, and again, with exercise, you’re becoming a beacon of health and working to keep a stroke at bay.

 

Cut the smoking! Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation techniques.  The sooner you stop, the faster your body will start to heal itself.  Not only will you reduce the chance of stroke, but you reduce the risk of heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease (discussed in a previous blog), and even premature death.

 

Limit the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption.  Not to mention heavy binge drinking, frequent drinking or alcohol abuse, even a consistent amount of moderate drinking can adversely affect your health.  Increased blood pressure and weight, as well as the higher risk of diabetes or liver damage, can contribute to the possibility of a stroke.  

 

Vascular Associates of South Alabama 

 

Now that we’ve outlined what you can do to help yourself, let’s talk briefly about what the caring team at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can do for you.  Our highly trained and experienced specialists partner with our patients to help identify those at risk and may order a specific ultrasound exam to get a better look at their carotid arteries and then develop a plan of action based on the results of the ultrasound.  We may discuss changes in the habits mentioned above, prescribe medications to help reduce some stroke indicators or explore the option of surgery to help with blood flow.

 

You can trust that our caring staff at any of our convenient locations will make you and your health our utmost priority.  We welcome new patients and accept almost every major medical insurance plan.  

 

Come see us at Vascular Associates of South Alabama, and let’s work together to get you back on the road to better health!

 

Different Treatments for Varicose Veins.png

Did you know you can hear the blood in your veins? You just have to listen varicosely.

Okay, so this is about the only time we’ll chuckle together regarding the issue of varicose veins. Those ugly, often bulging and twisting veins are no joke. But to treat them, we have to better understand them – what are the causes, how serious are they, and can they ever go away, are just some of the things that go through our collective thoughts when we see one beginning to develop.

 

Varicose or Spider?

 

Approximately 50 percent of our older population will begin to notice either varicose veins or spider veins in various spots on their bodies.  Even though they look very similar and are essentially related, their look, cause, severity and location can vary immensely.  

 

Certain lifestyle factors may contribute to what may seem like a sudden appearance of varicose or spider veins.  Overall weight, medicines with hormones in them, or if you have a job where you sit or stand for long periods of time can all contribute.  

 

But some reasons for varicose or spider veins are unavoidable.  Both can be considered hereditary, women are statistically more likely to develop them, and age is also a factor, as mentioned earlier.

 

Varicose veins are identified as those veins that are bulging, purplish in appearance and can look very twisted. They are more frequently found in women and usually show in the legs.  Pain is occasionally associated with varicose veins, as is a feeling of the limbs being heavy and tired. The most severe instances of varicose veins can result in further circulatory problems.

 

Spider veins are smaller, are most likely tiny blue or red lines, can appear nearly anywhere on our body (including the face), and are hardly ever painful or a precursor to other health-related issues.  They are mainly a sightly nuisance.

Finally, while not all varicose veins are considered serious, it is nevertheless better to speak to your physician or our highly knowledgeable staff here at Vascular Associates when you begin to see them so we can diagnose the veins and give you peace of mind that there are no underlying conditions, or develop a game plan as to how we’ll work together to combat their existence.

 

What Can Be Done?

So, you’ve come to terms with having varicose veins, but want to know if there are even any treatments for them.  The short, and highly positive answer, is YES! Here at Vascular Associates, we can discuss several treatment plans: 

 

Compression socks are not just for diabetes.  Designed to aid in pushing blood from your legs back toward your heart, compression socks also work very well in the treatment of varicose veins, thus reducing the opportunity for your veins to become swollen. 

 

Sclerotherapy injections: Using special chemical formulations to close off the damaged vein and causing them to then shrink in time (typically a very short period), the vein will fade away and no longer be visible.  Upon your initial visit, we will discuss whether you are a candidate for this procedure, and discuss possible side effects (most are minor).

 

Varithena: Administered by using either a catheter or by direct injection, Varithena is a foam that will fill the section of the vein to be treated, causing it to eventually collapse (results may be nearly immediate or require 1 or 2 more visits).  It is minimally invasive, and the best part? You can walk out and resume normal activities (with some minor restrictions) the same day!

 

VenaSeal (Closure Treatment): Using a small catheter, a specially formulated vein glue is administered to the affected area, and once it adheres to the vein, closes it off and reroutes the blood flow to nearby healthy veins.  It is nearly painless and is an outpatient procedure.  

 

Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT): Uses very thin fibers to transmit laser energy (heat) to the interior walls of the damaged vein, resulting in vein closure and then the flow of blood is redirected to neighboring veins.  It is nearly painless, most patients go home the same day, and the vein fades from view.

Phlebectomy or micro phlebectomy (sometimes called ambulatory phlebectomy): a procedure designed to remove the damaged vein through tiny openings in the skin.  This procedure is considered one of the best for those veins that are particularly bulging.  But unlike other procedures that merely close off the vein, a phlebectomy completely removes the bulging vein, so the aesthetic appeal is almost immediate. 

 

Let’s Partner

 

While there are alternatives available, we want to emphasize your comfort is of the utmost importance to us, so we will thoroughly go over treatment plans from which to choose as well as offer to manage associated pain medicinally to minimize any pain and reduce risks for nerve injury when using thermal ablation.

If you have questions about these or other procedures to remove varicose veins, please make an appointment today, and our caring staff at Vascular Associates of South Alabama will be glad to discuss available options with you and talk about lifestyle changes to give you relief and better health.  The best you is possible!

Is It Neuropathy or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).png

The Signs

You’re just sitting down with a good book or to catch the six o’clock news, when the shooting or stabbing pain in your feet you’ve overlooked before, is now undeniable. Unsure of the cause, you go into doctor mode and look for answers by Google.

Out for a nice walk, suddenly and without any real rhyme or reason, your legs feel like they’re cramping up, especially in your calves. You decide to sit on the nearest chair or bench, and the pain begins to disappear.  What’s going on here?

 

The Causes

Peripheral Neuropathy, or peripheral neuritis, is the result of damage or disease to your nervous system. Diabetes is generally considered the main cause, but exposure to toxins, injuries or infections can also be what causes the damage.  Neuropathy symptoms range from numbness, weakness, to a pins-and-needles sensation that is painful.  Left unattended, the pain can become acute.

Peripheral Artery Disease, or PAD, is a disease brought on by the narrowing of arteries that carry blood and affects the extremities of your body, such as legs and feet.  Being overweight, smoking or lack of exercise are all contributing factors to PAD.  To add to your frustration, when you move, pain begins and can grow worse and only seems to get better when you are at rest.  But this is a tell-tale sign of PAD. Left untreated, you may also see changes in skin color, or form noticeable sores. And plaque buildup can cause clots, which will further reduce the flow of blood, or may even block it altogether, which may result in a damaging infection or possible amputation.  

First Things First

Nearly all of us at some point or another will experience some sort of discomfort or minor aches and pains. Whether it’s muscle soreness, cramps, or a slight twinge, we usually pass these off with excuses, like, “I haven’t used those muscles in a while”, or, “I stepped wrong”, and so on.  We also attempt to reason it away with thoughts such as a lack of exercise, miscalculating the weight of a particular object and even age. 

However, when the pain can no longer be ignored, when it doesn’t completely go away on its own or with simple pain meds, it’s time to get serious about the root cause, because doing so will make the path taken to find relief become clearer.    

Begin making mental or written notes of such things as, when the pain occurs, what you are doing, does it go away, etc. And remember to be specific about what areas hurt.  

 

The Way Ahead

Share these notes with your doctor, or with us and we’ll go over your symptoms together. We’ll discuss things like your current lifestyle or any recent changes to your daily routine, and from that, forge a way forward to get you back to better health. 

With either neuropathy or PAD, a better, healthier you, is possible. Our staff has the experience, knowledge and expertise to get you there. Schedule an appointment with us, today!

Predicting Amputation Due to Diabetes and PAD.png

 

If you have type 2 diabetes, you’ve likely thought about limb amputation. Diabetic patients are at increased risk of amputation, accounting for up to 85% of daily limb amputations worldwide. This increased threat is due to a variety of factors, making it difficult - if not impossible - to reduce the risk completely. 

 

Luckily, researchers continue to study the connection between diabetes and amputation in an effort to more accurately predict and prevent the threat. One recent study suggests that doctors should be paying special attention to a subgroup of diabetic patients: those with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

 

How Diabetes and PAD affect amputation risk

 

There is no doubt a connection between diabetes and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop PAD, as high levels of blood sugar cause changes in the blood chemistry and artery walls that contribute to plaque buildup. Not only are diabetic patients more likely to develop PAD, but diabetes is also known to increase the progression and severity of the disease.

 

Diabetes and PAD each carry an independent risk of limb amputation, and that risk increases significantly when the conditions co-exist. In fact, the risks are directly related: diabetes causes slow-healing sores and PAD, which blocks the blood flow needed to heal the open wounds from reaching the extremities. As blood flow is restricted, tissue damage occurs and sores may develop gangrene, a dangerous and deadly infection. Diabetic patients may also develop nerve damage that decreases pain, causing dangerous foot ulcers to go untreated until amputation is the only answer.

 

Unfortunately, the burden of amputations is severe, causing a significant rise in five-year mortality rates. For this reason, experts have begun conducting studies to determine variable risk factors that increase the threat of amputation in diabetic patients. One such study recently published in Diabetic Medicine developed a new risk score model that could help physicians better treat patients that present with major adverse limb events (MALEs). 

 

Predicting Diabetic Limb Amputation with Risk Scores

 

There are many factors that put you at an increased risk for amputation, including:

 

  • Certain demographic factors (age, gender, ethnicity)

  • Smoking

  • Underlying conditions, especially diabetes or vascular diseases

  • A history of foot ulcers or prior amputations

  • Neuropathy status

 

In this new study, 14,752 patients with type 2 diabetes were assessed for major adverse limb amputations, including amputations, revascularization, and gangrene. By reviewing the data, experts were able to create a variable risk score model that ranges from 6 (low risk) to 96 (high risk).

 

The study found that peripheral artery disease was the leading risk factor for diabetic limb amputation. Negative outcomes were also more likely in patients over 50, males, and those with a history of smoking. Additional high-risk factors included coronary artery disease, unmanaged insulin use and a history of prior foot ulcers or amputations.

 

In the future, this new risk score model could be used to categorize patient risk of amputation based on the presence of certain individual factors, allowing doctors to provide more specialized care that reduces the threat of limb loss. 

 

Reducing Amputation Risk

 

By understanding the most prevalent risk factors, patients and physicians can take a more proactive role in preventing diabetic amputation. Doctors should take special care to closely monitor high-risk patients and manage underlying conditions like diabetes and peripheral artery disease. Patients should be taught to check themselves for dangerous foot ulcerations, make healthy lifestyle choices, and control their blood sugar levels.

 

If you have diabetes, being proactive about peripheral artery disease is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of amputation. Vascular Associates of South Alabama offers a wide range of PAD treatments and procedures to help you manage your condition and improve your overall health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

Can Young Adults Get Peripheral Artery Disease.png

 

Wrinkles. Vision Loss. Dementia. There are some things we don’t expect to combat until we’re older. You probably wouldn’t think to ask about Peripheral Artery Disease at your 35-year check-up - but maybe you should.

 

While this common vascular disease doesn’t typically show up on your patient questionnaire until your late 50s, it can occur much earlier. More young adults than ever are showing early signs of the condition - and they experience an alarmingly poor prognosis. To help you be proactive at your next physical, here’s what you need to know about premature Peripheral Artery Disease.

 

What is Premature Peripheral Arterial Disease?

 

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries that carry blood away from the heart. This sticky substance causes the arteries to narrow and restricts blood flow to the extremities, especially the legs and feet. If left untreated, the condition can lead to limited mobility, limb pain and weakness, and even early death. 

 

PAD typically occurs later in life. When symptomatic PAD occurs in patients under the age of 50, it is known as Premature Peripheral Artery Disease. This early onset is rare - it occurs in less than one percent of the U.S. population, but it can also be extremely serious. Studies have shown that premature PAD is associated with a higher risk of rapid progression, limb loss, and death.

 

Signs of Premature Peripheral Artery Disease

 

PAD is easy to overlook, even in high-risk patients. The condition builds gradually and symptoms are often mild, causing many patients to go undiagnosed for several years. You may be suffering from Peripheral Artery Disease if you have:

 

  • Limb pain that lessens or disappears with rest (Intermittent Claudication)

  • Weakness or Numbness in the legs and/or feet

  • Limb sores that are slow to heal

  • Legs that are pale, blue-tinted, or cold to the touch

  • Poor growth of toenails or leg hair

  • Restlessness in the legs and feet, especially at night

 

Because PAD is uncommon in younger adults, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or are at increased risk of premature PAD. 

 

Am I at risk of Premature Peripheral Artery Disease?

 

Although rare, premature PAD does occur under the right conditions. Those at risk of Premature Peripheral Artery Disease share many of the same risk factors as those in the condition’s typical onset range. 

 

The most common risk factors include:

 

  • Smoking

  • Family history of Vascular Disease

  • Uncontrolled Diabetes

  • Obesity and Physical Inactivity

  • High Blood Pressure

  • High Cholesterol

  • High levels of Homocysteine, an amino acid that helps break down protein

 

Because PAD is uncommon in younger adults, it’s important to speak with a vascular specialist if you are at increased risk of premature PAD. A quick, non-invasive test known as an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) can provide a painless diagnosis by comparing the blood pressure levels in your hands and feet. If your ABI level is below 0.9, you may have a blocked artery that requires medical intervention.

 

How is Premature Peripheral Artery Disease Treated?

 

There are many treatment options available for patients with Peripheral Artery Disease. These can range from simple lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation and exercise to daily medications to control underlying conditions. In severe cases, surgical interventions may be necessary. 

 

Because PAD is progressive, it is extremely important that the condition is managed as quickly as possible, especially in those with early onset. If you are at risk of Premature Peripheral Artery Disease, make an appointment with Vascular Associates of South Alabama. Our expert physicians and specialists will work with you in our state-of-the-art facility to develop a tailored treatment plan that manages your condition and extends your quality of life.  

The Main Differences in Ischemic Strokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks.png

Is it a stroke or a mini-stroke? Knowing the difference may be harder than it seems. Ischemic Strokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks - more commonly known as a “mini-stroke” - look and act almost identical. They share similar causes, symptoms, and risk factors, making it difficult for even medical professionals to tell them apart.

 

So what’s the difference between an ischemic stroke and a transient ischemic attack (TIA), and is one really better than the other? Read on to find out. 

 

Ischemic Stroke

 

Almost 75% of all strokes are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage in the brain’s artery causes blood flow to be restricted to an area of the brain. As brain tissue dies, critical functions like speech, memory, and muscle movement are impaired. An ischemic stroke is a medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated as soon as possible. 

 

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

 

A TIA is also caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain. Unlike an ischemic stroke, a TIA is temporary and resolves on its own without medical intervention. Blood flow typically returns to normal within a few minutes and symptoms resolve completely within 24 hours. TIA can cause permanent damage but typically does not have permanent symptoms. It can also lead to long-term cognitive problems including increased risk for dementia.

 

Stroke and TIA Symptoms

 

The short-term symptoms of an ischemic stroke and a TIA are very similar and can include:

 

  • Muscle weakness

  • Numbness or Tingling

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech

  • Loss of coordination

  • Drooling

  • Drooping of one side of the face

  • Confusion

 

It’s important to note that it’s impossible to tell the difference between an ischemic stroke and a TIA from initial symptoms alone. Any combination of the above symptoms requires immediate medical attention. 

 

Stroke and TIA Prognosis

A stroke is a dangerous emergency that can cause permanent disability and even death. Most strokes can be successfully treated if diagnosed early, though most survivors suffer long-term consequences such as problems with speech and memory.

 

Because it resolves on its own very quickly, a TIA does not cause lasting brain damage or disability. That being said, a TIA is a warning sign you should never ignore. They often foreshadow future strokes, and about 12 percent of patients with a TIA die within a year. 

 

Treatment & Management

 

The treatment for an ischemic stroke involves removing the blockage through clot-busting medications or surgical intervention. Once treated, survivors must typically undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation to combat long-term disabilities. Stroke prevention measures including medications, regular testing, imaging studies, and surgery can reduce your risk of future strokes. 

 

TIA symptoms resolve on their own without the need for medical intervention. TIA patients will need to undergo a full medical evaluation to identify and manage any stroke risk factors. Treatment plans typically include medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lifestyle changes, and surgical vessel repair if needed.

 

If you are at risk or have suffered a stroke, the expert physicians at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help. We offer detailed stroke prevention and management treatments that can determine and reduce your risk of future strokes. Contact us today! 

Symptoms of Varicose Veins.png

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins. They’re all too common - affecting nearly 35% of the U.S. population - and often considered harmless, but leaving them untreated may not be as safe as you think.

Varicose veins occur when the valves in superficial veins weaken, causing blood to collect and pool in the area. This leads to veins that are twisted, enlarged, and dark in color. They most commonly occur in legs, though any superficial vein can become varicose.

Often, varicose veins are mostly a cosmetic concern. But if left untreated, they can cause physical symptoms that range from merely inconvenient to completely debilitating.

Signs and Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are most commonly recognized by their distinct appearance. Signs that you may have varicose veins include:

  • Veins that appear swollen, raised and twisted beneath the skin
  • Veins that are purplish or dark blue in color
  • Spider veins, or mild red and blue-colored veins beneath the skin

In some cases, varicose veins can cause physical symptoms that range from mild to severe. Symptoms of varicose veins can include:

Pain and Discomfort. Varicose veins can cause burning, throbbing, aching, or itching in the legs. The pain usually increases with prolonged sitting or standing.

Limb Fatigue. Varicose veins may cause a heavy or tired feeling in the legs or limbs.

Bleeding. Varicose veins may rupture and bleed with mild trauma.

Skin Discoloration. The skin around a varicose vein may become swollen or discolored.

Skin Tears. Varicose veins may cause skin tears or ulceration in severe cases.

Phlebitis. If left untreated, varicose veins can lead to superficial blood clots, a condition that causes pain, swelling, and redness in the vein or affected limb.

When To See A Doctor

Varicose veins are often harmless, but they may indicate a more serious underlying health condition like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). For this reason, new or severe varicose veins should always be evaluated by your physician. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment and management plan for your varicose veins.

At Vascular Associates of South Alabama, we offer comprehensive and non-invasive treatment options for varicose veins, including sclerotherapy injections, endovenous laser treatment, phlebectomy procedures, and compression stockings. If you need help with your varicose veins, contact us today.

Treatment Options for.png

Hearing the words, “you have Peripheral Artery Disease” can be scary. As plaque builds up in the arteries, they begin to narrow and blood has a harder time flowing to important areas of the body. While a serious disease that requires prompt treatment, Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) has several treatment options that can manage the disease, treat your symptoms, and keep your arteries and blood flow working properly.

Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment Options

If you have PAD, your doctor will work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan. It’s important to remember that which treatment option will work best for you depends on the severity and location of your PAD, as well as your unique health needs. Some patients may see excellent results from lifestyle changes alone, while others need additional (or different) types of care.

Lifestyle Changes

For mild PAD sufferers, lifestyle changes may be enough to slow or even halt the progression of your disease. Commonly prescribed lifestyle changes include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet that’s low in fats and cholesterol
  • Manage underlying conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure

Medications

There are many prescription medications available to treat the signs and symptoms of PAD and lower your risk for other health conditions. Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat underlying conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. PAD patients may also receive medications to prevent blood clots, improve blood flow, reduce pain from claudication, and more.

Surgical Options

If your PAD cannot be controlled through lifestyle changes and medication alone, surgical intervention may be needed. The most common surgical procedures to treat PAD include:

Arterial Bypass. The most common treatment for PAD involves inserting a graft bypass to move blood around the blocked or narrowed artery. The graft may be made from a vessel taken from another part of your body or using synthetic (man-made) materials.

Angioplasty. A less invasive procedure known as an angioplasty involves using a catheter to thread a balloon into the affected artery. The balloon is then inflated, flattening the blockage into the artery wall and stretching the artery to improve blood flow. If needed, your doctor may insert a mesh or metallic stent to keep the artery open.

Clot Treatment. If a blood clot is completely restricting the blood flow in an artery, your doctor may insert clot-busting medication into the artery to dissolve the clot or may need to remove the clot completely.

If you’ve been diagnosed with or are at risk of Peripheral Artery Disease, the expert physicians at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help! We specialize in high-tech, minimally invasive treatment options to diagnose, manage, and treat your PAD. Schedule an appointment to visit our on-site, state-of-the-art lab and outpatient facility today!

5 Facts About Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms.png

Many people associate aneurysms with a sudden rupture in the brain. But an aneurysm can occur in any blood vessel in the body that has a weak spot in the artery wall, causing it to stretch into a balloon-like bulge. When an aneurysm occurs in the aorta, the large blood vessel in the abdomen that supplies blood to the legs, it’s known as an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

As with the brain, an abdominal aneurysm can suddenly rupture, causing death. But many people have abdominal aneurysms for years without symptoms or medical problems. So you know what to watch for to prevent this silent killer, here are 5 facts you should know about abdominal aneurysms.

1. They are fairly common. According to The Society for Vascular Surgery, abdominal aneurysms affect 200,000 people per year in the United States. This makes them the 15th leading cause of death in the country.

2. There may be no symptoms. Most people experience no symptoms of an abdominal aneurysm until it ruptures, becoming a life-threatening emergency. The majority of abdominal aneurysms are found during routine check-ups or other medical exams.

If the aneurysm becomes large enough to press on surrounding organs, you may experience pain in the belly, chest, lower back, or legs. The pain may come and go or it may be constant. You may also experience a pulsating feeling in your abdomen.

If the aneurysm creates a blood clot that breaks off and impedes blood flow, you may experience discolored skin or sores on your feet and/or toes.

3. They can be caused by a variety of factors. There is no one cause of abdominal aneurysms. Weakness or tears in the aortic wall, genetic factors, and contributing medical conditions are the most common causes of abdominal aneurysms.

Those at greatest risk of abdominal aneurysms include:

  • Smokers
  • Those over 60
  • Men
  • Caucasians
  • Those with a history of atherosclerosis
  • Those with a family history of abdominal aneurysms (especially first-generation relatives)
  • Those with other medical conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vascular disease, or connective tissue disorders

4. They can be deadly. Many abdominal aneurysms have no symptoms until they present with life or limb-threatening complications. Aneurysms that are undiagnosed or that grow unimpeded can rupture, causing severe internal bleeding and death.

A ruptured aneurysm presents with sudden and severe pain in the belly or back. You may also have an extreme drop in blood pressure or experience signs of shock. A ruptured aneurysm requires immediate medical attention.  Up to 80% of people who have a ruptured aneurysm do not survive to get to the hospital, and of those who do only 50% survive 1 month after hospital stay if able to be treated promptly.

5. There are effective treatments. If you’re diagnosed with an abdominal aneurysm, a vascular surgeon can help you determine a proper treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs. The need for treatment depends on the size and anatomy of your aneurysm, your medical history, and how well you may tolerate a specific procedure.

Non-surgical treatments can be effective in slowing the growth of an aneurysm and are the first line of treatment for aneurysms under 5 centimeters. They include lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation and healthy diet and exercise plans, medications to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and routine monitoring of the aneurysm’s growth.

If your abdominal aneurysm is over 5 centimeters or is causing symptoms, surgical intervention may be needed. There are 2 main surgical treatments for abdominal aneurysms:

  • An Open Repair procedure inserts an artificial graft through an incision in the abdomen to repair the aneurysm.
  • An Endovascular Aneurysm Repair (EVAR) uses specialized tools and X-ray guidance to insert a stent into the aneurysm through the femoral artery in the groin.

If you’re at risk or have been diagnosed with an abdominal aneurysm, schedule a vascular evaluation with Vascular Associates of South Alabama. Our renowned vascular surgeons are specially trained in the most innovative, effective aneurysm treatments as well as advanced methods for diagnosing them in their early stages. They will work closely with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan to fit your unique needs.

Untitled design - 2020-07-24T135732.482.png

If you’re monitoring your vascular health, you’ve probably been told to keep a watch on your cholesterol. This sticky villain is a known health risk, responsible for clogged arteries, heart attacks, strokes, and a variety of other life-threatening problems.

But cholesterol is a natural substance that has both good and bad qualities - when it’s consumed appropriately. So how did this once-beneficial substance turn into the big bad wolf of vascular health? Let’s get back to the basics.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is an organic substance found in the walls of every human cell. It’s necessary for the production of hormones, Vitamin D, and substances that aid in proper digestion.

Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs, but cholesterol can also be found in foods that come from other animals such as eggs, milk, meat, and cheese. As these are common staples in every human diet, many people consume much more cholesterol than their body needs.

When your doctor runs a cholesterol test, they’re looking at two main types of cholesterol:

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)

Also known as “good cholesterol”, HDLs act as scavengers that carry cholesterol through the bloodstream to the liver, where it’s expelled from the body. High levels of HDL can actually lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

The majority of cholesterol in your body is LDL or “bad cholesterol”. LDL can build up in your arteries as plaque, a condition known as atherosclerosis. High levels of LDL increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Why is High Cholesterol Dangerous?

Because it has a waxy, fat-like texture, consuming too much cholesterol can cause it to build up in the blood and arteries as plaque. Eventually, the arteries can narrow and harden, leading to a range of serious health problems such as vascular diseases (like coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease), stroke, or heart attack.

What causes High Cholesterol?

Most cases of high cholesterol are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, though genetics, age, and race can also put you at higher risk. The most common causes of high cholesterol include:

  • Smoking
  • A high-fat diet
  • Lack of physical activity

How Can I Lower My Cholesterol?

Ideally, your total cholesterol level should be less than 200, with at least 60 HDL and less than 130 LDL. If your blood test shows high levels, your doctor may prescribe a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to lower and control your cholesterol.

Helpful lifestyle changes can include:

  • Eating a healthy diet. Heart-healthy diets are low in trans and saturated fats and high in vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and whole grains.
  • Weight management. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise can lower your LDL levels.
  • Quitting smoking. Tobacco lowers your HDL levels. The sooner you stop smoking, the faster your body can build helpful HDL to carry cholesterol to the liver.

If lifestyle changes alone can’t control your cholesterol, your doctor may also prescribe medication. Common medications for cholesterol management can include statins, bile acid sequestrants, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, and others. Your doctor will work with you to decide the best type of medication for you.

If you’re struggling with high cholesterol or other vascular health problems, the expert physicians at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help. We work closely with our patients to develop treatment plans to treat and manage your condition and keep you in optimal health. Contact us today for an appointment.

Copyright 2021 by Vascular Associates | Privacy Statement | Login | Web Design by: BIS Designs