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Tips for vascular health

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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious medical condition in which a blood clot forms in one of your body’s deep veins. A blood clot (thrombus) is when a clump of blood changes from a liquid to a semi-solid or gel-like state. DVT occurs most commonly in the legs, though it can occur elsewhere in the body.

Your arms and legs have both superficial and deep veins. When a clot forms in a deep vein, it's a serious medical condition. That’s because a piece of the clot may break off and travel to the lungs, causing a medical emergency.

What are the signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

DVT can occur without noticeable symptoms. Those that do experience symptoms may experience:

  • Pain or cramping in the leg, usually starting at the calf
  • Swelling in the leg
  • Warmth in the affected area
  • Red or blue skin discoloration

Many people are unaware they have a DVT until it breaks off and reaches the lungs. This is known as a Pulmonary Embolism (PE), and it’s a life-threatening emergency. Signs of a PE can include shortness of breath, chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing, coughing up blood, and rapid heart rate. If you suffer from any of those symptoms, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

What Causes DVT?

DVT can be caused by anything that prevents your blood from circulating or clotting correctly. The most common causes include:

  • Immobility. Long periods of sitting or immobility are one of the main causes of DVT. This can include bed rest due to illness or surgery, long trips in a car or airplane, or injury to the leg that keeps it immobile.
  • Medication. Certain medications like birth control, estrogen supplements, and hormone replacement therapy can cause DVT.
  • Injury to a vein. Veins can be injured through trauma (such as a broken bone) or surgery.
  • Inherited blood disorders. Some families are predisposed to blood disorders that cause the blood to clot easily or frequently, a condition known as hypercoagulation.

Some individuals are more likely to suffer from deep vein thrombosis than others. Common risk factors include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Certain cancers
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Family history or genetic predisposition to blood clots
  • Heart disease

How is Deep Vein Thrombosis Treated?

To diagnose DVT, your doctor will take a family history, do a physical exam, and conduct one or more diagnostic tests. Those may include an ultrasound, D-dimer blood test, or venography.

If you are diagnosed with DVT, your doctor will work with you to determine the best course of treatment. Common treatment options include:

Blood thinners. The most common treatment for DVT is oral or intravenous blood thinners. They cannot dissolve an existing clot, but they can keep it from growing or breaking as well as keep new clots from forming.

Clot Busters. If blood thinners don’t work, or your clot is dangerously large, your doctor may choose a more aggressive medication known as a clot-buster, or thrombolytic. These medications are inserted intravenously or through a catheter directly into the clot. They carry a severe risk of stroke and bleeding and are often reserved for more serious cases of DVT.

A Vena Cava Filter. If your clot doesn’t respond well to medication, a filter may be surgically placed into the large vena cava vein in your abdomen. This filter prevents clots that break off from reaching the lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism.

Thrombectomy. In rare cases, your doctor may need to surgically remove the clot in a procedure known as a thrombectomy.

Once your DVT is under control, there are lifestyle changes that will help prevent a future clot. Those include exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, stop smoking, and avoiding periods of prolonged immobility.

If you have further questions or are at risk for developing DVT, Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help! Our team of board-certified vascular surgeons will work with you to develop a treatment plan that takes control of your DVT and vascular health. Contact us today!

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For most of us, diseases are diagnosed because we experience common symptoms. Chest pain? It’s likely Coronary Disease. Kidney dysfunction? Let’s test for Renal Disease. Some diseases, like Peripheral Artery Disease, are much harder to diagnose because their symptoms are mild or nonexistent.

Almost half of those with Peripheral Artery Disease have no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages. Of those who do, symptoms can be so mild that they are attributed to natural aging or are easily ignored. Because of this, many patients have Peripheral Artery Disease for years before being diagnosed. Since P.A.D. causes fatty blockage in the arteries that can restrict blood flow, it’s important to catch it early to prevent serious or even life-threatening consequences.

There are a few common signs to watch for that may indicate a vascular disease like P.A.D. If you suffer from any of the below conditions or are at high-risk for the disease, it’s important to speak with your doctor.

Intermittent Claudication

The most common sign of P.A.D. is also one of the most confusing. Intermittent Claudication refers to pain or cramping in the arms or legs that comes with exercise or activity and disappears with rest. Because most of us have experienced occasional discomfort when exercising, it’s one of the most quickly written-off symptoms. The key is that intermittent claudication pain can reach intolerable levels during movement but is relieved very quickly when you stop.

Weakness or numbness in the legs

 If your legs are unusually weak, numb, or prone to “falling asleep”, you may have a blood flow issue that could be due to P.A.D.

Changes in color or temperature in the legs

If one leg is much cooler than the other, or if you notice a change in skin color such as blueness or paleness, it may be due to P.A.D.

Sores on your toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal

Your body needs blood and oxygen to heal wounds. When your blood flow is restricted, even small wounds like a heel blister will be hard to overcome. This opens the door to infection and even gangrene, which can result in leg or foot amputation.

Loss of leg hair

As blood flow is restricted to the skin, it loses its ability to grow or hold body hair. Sparse or missing leg hair can indicate P.A.D.

Poor toenail growth

If you haven’t had to reach for the clippers in a while, it could be due to a vascular problem like P.A.D.

Erectile Dysfunction

In men, P.A.D. can manifest as erectile dysfunction due to decreased blood flow to the genital area.

Pain or cramping in the legs when at rest

If P.A.D is severe, you may experience pain or cramping in your legs or feet even when you’re resting. This occurs when your artery blockage is so severe that blood and oxygen are restricted, and it requires prompt treatment. It’s most commonly experienced as intense pain in the feet while resting at night.

If you think you may have Peripheral Artery Disease, we can help! Our expert vascular specialists can help you devise a treatment plan to take control of the disease and improve your vascular health. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!

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Millions of men and women across the United States are affected by Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). PAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood away from the heart, causing them to narrow and restricting blood flow. If you’ve been diagnosed with PAD or think you may be experiencing symptoms, there are a few things you should know about this common condition.

One in every 20 Americans over 50 has P.A.D.

In all, there are between 8-12 million cases of Peripheral Artery Disease in the United States, most of those over the age of 50. P.A.D. can affect anyone but is found most common in older patients, African-Americans and those with chronic health conditions like diabetes or hypertension.

It occurs most commonly in the limbs

Though any peripheral artery can become blocked by plaque, it occurs most commonly in the legs and feet.

It’s most commonly caused by Atherosclerosis

The most common cause of Peripheral Artery Disease is atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, fibrous tissue and other substances in the blood.

Having PAD puts you at risk of other health problems

People with Peripheral Artery Disease are at significantly higher risk of stroke, ischemic heart attacks, and coronary heart disease. If left untreated, P.A.D. can also lead to gangrene and amputation.

You may not know you have P.A.D.

Weakness in the limbs, aching or cramping legs, poor toenail growth - these could be simple signs of aging, but they could also indicate P.A.D. The symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease can range from mild to severe and are often vague enough to be easily mistaken for other conditions or written off completely. To add to the confusion, symptoms may become worse with activity but vanish completely with rest.

Because of this, many patients have P.A.D. for years before a diagnosis is made. If you are 70 years or older or have a history of high-risk factors, you should be screened for Peripheral Artery Disease.

Diagnosis is Easy and Painless

Good news! If you’re at risk of Peripheral Artery Disease or are experiencing symptoms, getting to the right diagnosis is often easy and painless. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, review your family and medical history, and use test results to determine if you have P.A.D.

A common diagnostic tool is the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI). This painless 10-minute test compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in your hands to look for blockages. Your ankle pressure should be within 90% of your arms, but if the blockage is severe it may be less than 50%.

If your ABI result is concerning, your doctor may use a vascular ultrasound or other imaging studies to test further.

You can take control of your PAD

In most cases, managing PAD is as simple as lifestyle changes and medication to prevent clots. Like so many other health issues, PAD can be reduced with exercise, a proper diet, and smoking cessation. Managing chronic conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol also helps reduce PAD.

In severe cases, surgery or injections may be needed to remove blockages or bypass the damaged artery. Speak with your doctor about what treatment plan is best for you.

We can help!

The specialists at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help you diagnose and manage your Peripheral Artery Disease. Our expert staff uses state-of-the-art equipment and a range of treatment options to help you take control of your PAD - and your life. Call to schedule your appointment today.

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Some of us have more prominent veins than others. But when your veins appear swollen, twisted, or darkly colored, you may be suffering from varicose veins. Varicose veins affect 1 in 4 adults and can range from merely unsightly to downright dangerous. But what exactly are varicose veins, and what can be done about them?

What Causes Varicose Veins?

In the simplest terms, varicose veins are veins that are swollen with blood. Your veins have valves that keep your blood flowing toward your heart. When those veins become damaged or weakened, blood can back-up behind them and pool in your veins, causing them to swell. When this happens, they protrude from the skin and appear twisted, enlarged, and bluish in color. They are often called “spider veins” when they are mild thanks to their webbed appearance.

Varicose veins are most common in the legs, ankles and feet. That’s because the pressure in the veins of your lower body is increased when you stand or walk. Any vein can become varicose. For example, hemorrhoids are a form of varicose veins that form in the rectum. They can also occur in the stomach, esophagus, liver or testicles.

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

The most common sign of varicose veins is their dark, bulging appearance. Many varicose veins cause no other symptoms. If left untreated, varicose veins can cause:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Dull aching
  • Feelings of heaviness or tiredness in the limbs
  • Changes in skin color
  • Nighttime skin cramps or restlessness

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Your symptoms may get worse when you sit or stand for long periods. 

Am I at risk for varicose veins?

Varicose veins are very common, affecting over 23% of adults. They occur more often in women than in men. Experts are not sure what causes varicose veins, but some potential risk factors include menopause, pregnancy, obesity, family history, and being over 50. You may also be at increased risk of varicose veins if you are taking certain medications, are inactive for long periods, or smoke.

How do you treat varicose veins?

Many varicose veins need no treatment for health reasons, but they may indicate an underlying condition so they should always be evaluated by a medical professional. Your physician will diagnose varicose veins by doing a physical examination and reviewing your lifestyle, family history, and symptoms. They may also use imaging like an ultrasound to determine the health of your veins.

Treatment for varicose veins can range from lifestyle changes to surgery. Being more active, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are common ways to combat varicose veins. Your physician may also suggest compression therapy, which improves circulation.

If your varicose veins are severe, you may need surgical treatment. Most procedures involve closing off the vein to prevent blood flow. Once the vein is closed, blood will re-route to healthy veins nearby. For a look at the most common surgical treatments, visit our services page.

Each patient is different. The physicians at Vascular Associates of South Alabama will work with you to determine the most appropriate course of treatment for your needs.

If you think you may be suffering from varicose veins, give us a call at 251-410-8272. Our expert vascular physicians can diagnose and treat your varicose veins to make you comfortable and keep you in optimal health. Plus, most of our procedures are minimally invasive and can be done right on-site in our Mobile, AL facility. Contact us today!



Strokes can be extremely scary. According to the CDC, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year. Family history, previous strokes and health factors all contribute to your risk of stroke. While you can’t change your family, there are ways you can lower your future risk and prevent a stroke from happening. Here are 6 ways that can help prevent a stroke:

Lower Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is the number one cause of strokes, responsible for over 50%. Having high blood pressure makes you 4-6 times more likely to have a stroke. That’s because it increases your risk of blood clots, which can cut off blood flow to your brain. Ideal blood pressure is under 120/80, but if yours is regularly higher than 140/90 then you may have high blood pressure.

Work with your doctor on keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range. Medications and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise are common treatments for high blood pressure.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

A healthy weight prevents so many health issues, and strokes are no exception. Obesity leads to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which increase your risk of stroke. A BMI of less than 25 is ideal but may not be realistic for everyone. Work with your doctor to create a treatment plan to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Of course, that means you’ll need to diet and exercise.

Diet and Exercise

Healthy lifestyle choices go a long way in preventing a stroke. Choosing healthy foods like fruits, veggies, lean protein, cutting out fats, salts and sugars, help you shed pounds and stay heart-healthy. Exercising is also important to staying healthy and minimizing your risk of stroke. You don’t have to become a pro-athlete - moderate exercise such as walking or biking for 30 minutes, 5 times a week is enough. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regime.

Treat Diabetes

High blood sugar makes you 2-4 times more likely to have a stroke. Untreated diabetes can cause clots or fatty deposits to build in your arteries, causing them to narrow and restrict blood flow. If you have diabetes, be sure to stay on top of your blood sugar and have regular visits with your doctor to lower your risk of stroke.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking doubles your risk of a stroke. It causes high blood pressure, reduces your blood’s oxygen levels, damages your blood vessels, and much more. Even secondhand smoke can increase your risk. It’s best to throw your butts in the trash. Speak to your doctor about smoking cessation methods.

Drink in Moderation

Excessive alcohol consumption raises your blood pressure, affects your blood sugar, and can cause irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation). Limit your intake of alcohol to minimize your risk of stroke. If you struggle to stop drinking, seek the help of your doctor.

Using tips like the one above, we can now prevent up to 80% of strokes. If you’re at risk, the professionals at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can work with you on a stroke prevention plan to minimize your chance of future strokes. From lifestyle changes to medications or surgery, we can help you take back your health and your life. Contact us today!

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