Austin Varicose Vein Treatment Reviews

Dr. Bunker and his staff were very professional.
His staff were young people yet still friendly and personable. Dr Bunker is also very personable. The procedures were explained to me with depth so I had less apprehensions…

-JB (Yelp Review) 

Dr. Bunker and his staff are knowledgeable and care about what they do. If you are experiencing pain in your lower legs and are concerned you may have vein disease, please give our office a call at 512-726-0599 and schedule an appointment for a consultation. 

 

 

Image of woman with shin splints

Shin Splints or Venous Insufficiency?

If you’ve been feeling a dull ache in your lower leg(s), you may have wondered if it could be a symptom of venous insufficiency, which is often characterized by this kind of pain. But circulation isn’t the only cause—the common athletic condition shin splints is also accompanied by an ache in the lower leg(s). Here’s how to tell the difference.

Where is the pain located?

 

If the ache you’re feeling is specific to your shin bone, or tibia, the strong bone you can feel on the narrow front of your lower leg, it’s more likely that what you’re experiencing is stress fractures or shin splints. Shin splints can be anterolateral, affecting the front of the leg, or posteromedial, affecting the inner part of the back of leg, still along the tibia bone.

If the ache seems to be all over your lower leg(s), also felt on the sides, ankles, calves, and/or feet, there’s a good chance that the issue is related to blood not being pumped adequately back up to the heart, as in venous insufficiency.

What does the pain feel like?

 

If the pain aches and throbs along the tibia bone during physical activity, either subsiding with rest or continuing afterward, but doesn’t include any other sensations, you’ve probably got a case of shin splints.

If the pain aches and throbs but is also accompanied by a ticking feeling, a general ache not specific to the tibia, or sudden warm rushing waves, you can be sure that what you’re feeling is blood trying to move through the veins.

What is your level of physical activity?

 

If you are very athletic and engaged in sports such as running, jogging, cross country, hiking, soccer, basketball, football, or rugby, there’s a good chance that the pain was caused by stress or inflammation to the tibia, a frequent problem among athletes.

If you are only mildly physically active, just became active after a long break, or haven’t been very active at all, there’s less of a chance that you could have harmed your shin or tibia. One of the risk factors of venous insufficiency is a sedentary lifestyle, long periods of standing (but not moving much), or a lack of physical exercise. If this sounds more like your situation, the issue is probably venous in nature.

Does elevation help?

 

One of the quickest and easiest ways to alleviate the pain associated with venous insufficiency is to elevate the legs, laying down on the floor or a bed and resting your legs up a wall, allowing the blood to drain back toward the heart. Elevation doesn’t always eliminate venous pain, but it will almost always help.

Go ahead and give it a try. If the ache in your legs seems to lessen or go away, or if you can feel a warm rush as the blood flows the opposite direction, you’re probably dealing with venous insufficiency. If elevation doesn’t help at all, the problem could be stress fractures or inflammation in the shin, which wouldn’t be affected by elevation.

If you’re still unsure how to tell the difference between shin splints and venous insufficiency, or need professional help diagnosing the pain in your leg(s), call Bunker Vein & Imaging at (512) 726-0599 to schedule a consultation.

image of compression stockings

Medical-grade compression stockings are a great way to aid blood flow and alleviate pain related to vein disease, which they do using strong elastic at a graduated tightness from ankle to thigh. They’re much tighter than your average pair of socks of stockings, which means that they’re much harder to put on—unless you know this helpful trick.

When I got my first pair of compression socks, I tried to bunch them up along the sides the way you’d put on pantyhose, but the elastic was so tight that I couldn’t separate the sides enough to fit my foot in the middle. Sliding them up my leg a little at a time was so difficult and exhausting I literally worked up a sweat. And then I found the heel cup method.

Once you’ve got it down, the heel cup method is so quick and easy, I can now slip on a pair of compression stockings in just a minute or two. Here’s how it’s done:

 

  1. Make sure your compression stockings are not inside out. The easiest way to be sure is to check the seams. Are they sticking out, or smooth? The smoother side is the outside.

 

  1. Reach your hand into your stocking and grab the heel cup, the semi-circular piece of fabric where your heel fits. You can use your other hand to push the fabric in, making it easier to grab from the inside.

 

  1. Grab the top of the stocking with your other hand and pull it down, over the inside hand, so that almost the whole stocking is now inside-out, with the heel pocket now visible. Straighten out the opening so that the heel pocket is centered, this is where you will put your foot.

 

  1. Holding the opening taut, put your foot through so that your toes come into contact with the bottom seam (or if they are footless, until your toes come out the open end). Position the stocking on your foot, so that the heel pocket is now under your heel.

 

  1. Grab the top of the stocking with both hands and pull it up and over your leg, turning it back right side-in as you do. It will now be much easier and require much less pulling.

 

The easiest way to remove compression stockings is to grab the top and pull them all the way down the leg, turning them inside-out.

Stockings are fragile! Be gentle when pulling them,especially if you have long nails. Be very careful not to pierce the fabric with your nails when you grab.

For more information about using compression stockings and other ways to treat symptoms of varicose and spider veins, call Bunker Vein & Imaging at (512) 726-0599 to schedule a consultation.

Image of woman elevating legs

You may have heard that elevation is one of the best and quickest ways to provide relief when blood backs up in aching legs and feet. But how do you make it work in the busy modern world?

What is Elevation?

Elevation refers to lifting your legs above your heart by resting them up a wall or on a chair, ottoman, or stack of pillows. This reverses the flow of blood from the lower legs and feet, draining back toward the heart.

You can elevate your legs while laying or sitting down, and will probably find that there are certain times you must do it throughout the day—after long periods of standing and when you take your compression stockings off at night, for example.

How Do You Elevate?

The best way to get a full elevation is to lay on the floor or your bed, scoot as close to the wall or headboard as possible, and then rest your legs up the wall. This full elevation should be done at least once a day when you remove your compression stockings, but you may find that you need it more often.

There are also certain yoga poses that provide full elevation, such as shoulder stand, headstand, and handstand, in order from easiest to most advanced.

But neither of these options are very realistic when you’re at the office or out in public.

 

Other Ways to Elevate

If you are sitting at a chair or desk, rest your feet on another chair, foot stool, or stack of pillows, rather than resting them on the floor, which will cause the blood to pool.

When eating out at restaurants, try to sit across from an empty chair to rest your feet on, or choose a booth.

If you find that you need to elevate while out or on the road, scoot your driver’s seat back as far as it will go, lay back and rest your legs on your steering wheel.

If you have the flexibility, you can elevate while sitting upright by bringing your knee toward your chest, grabbing your ankle with both hands, and straightening your leg as far upward as it will go. Hold this pose for as long as is comfortable and then switch legs. This might get you some funny looks in public, but can also be done sitting in a bathroom stall.

If you are laying down in bed, place one or many pillows under the top sheet down by your feet, where you can comfortably rest them. This creates a slight incline that will help while you sleep.

 

Enjoy Your Elevation Time

It can be very hard to adjust to elevating every day. Especially for full elevation, you have to stop what you’re doing, find a spot to lay down, and then be still for 10-20 minutes. This is a great time to give your body and mind rest, but you have to make it feel enjoyable instead of like a punishment.

Find a spot in your home where you most like to elevate. Is there a certain wall or spot of carpet you like best? Do you prefer to elevate up your headboard in bed? Lay out a blanket, pillows, or a mat to make sure your spot is comfortable.

Then, make sure you have a good book or music within reach of your spot—this will really help you feel more excited about elevating. I’ve tried writing in a journal or typing on a laptop in an elevated position, but it’s too difficult and causes your wrists to get sore quickly.

If you are in the middle of something important and you need to work, using voice-to-text or a dictation software can help keep your momentum going.

At least some of the time, try doing nothing while you elevate. Close your eyes and take deep, even breaths, or try clearing your mind and meditating for a while. Sometimes, a little break from everything is exactly what our bodies need most.

 

What If Elevating Doesn’t Help?

Here’s a question I never thought about until I experienced it myself. Sometimes, elevating doesn’t make the pain go away. In fact, for some reason, in certain instances it seems to make it worse.

If you have been elevating for too long, your feet will start to tingle and fall asleep. This is a good sign that it’s time to let the blood flow in the other direction again.

If you just started elevating and it seems like the pain is getting worse, try rotating or pumping your ankles. This motion helps to unblock the flow of blood and get it moving again.

I also find that sometimes it feels better to put my feet at a right angle against the wall instead of straight up and down. It also sometimes helps to start with them up the wall and then let them fall to the sides in a straddle position, or to fold them in a cross-legged position against the wall.

Do you have questions about elevating your legs or treating that heavy, aching feeling that often accompanies vein disease? Talk to a specialist today. Call Bunker Vein & Imaging at (512) 726-0599 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Bunker.

image of woman thinking about the things she learned about vein diseaseAfter writing about it for a year and a half, I built up quite a bit of knowledge about vein disease and its causes, symptoms, and treatments. But when Dr. Bunker diagnosed me with chronic venous insufficiency  (CVI) this spring, I experienced some interesting daily realities that all of the medical information in the world couldn’t have prepared me for.

 

Here are 5 things I never knew about vein disease until I was diagnosed:

It’s Possible (and Kind of Creepy) to Feel Your Veins

In the same way we feel our stomachs gurgling or hurting, or feel our lungs expanding with air, it is possible to feel the passage of blood through your veins. I never noticed this before, and my guess is because when your blood is flowing smoothly, it doesn’t feel like much at all.

But when your blood is refluxing or pooling, you can actually feel the backup in your veins. Sometimes it feels like a bent garden hose, a spotty, start-stop feeling kind of like a ticking or fluttering. Sometimes it feels like an outward pulsing or aching pressure, like when you have a sinus headache. And sometimes you can just feel a slight crawling sensation as your blood moves through your vein.

It takes a deep level of body awareness (paying close, almost meditative-like attention to the feeling of being in your body) to notice the subtle sensations, but once you do, you’ll know right away when you’re refluxing.

Wearing Compression Daily is Not Easy

One of the first recommendations for those experiencing vein issues, and one of the “conservative therapies” required by many insurance companies, is to wear medical-grade compression stockings every day.

Here’s what they don’t tell you: You will need many more than just one pair, and if you enjoy putting together nice outfits you must have at least one pair in black and at least a couple of pairs in the footless style. You can’t easily wear shorts, skirts, or dresses with thigh-highs, and you can’t wear flats, sandals, or flip-flops with footed styles.

All of that aside, wearing any kind of stockings in the hot Texas summer is an uncomfortable challenge. I recommend footless knee-highs for going out in shorts and flip-flops, and sleeves for short outings or going hiking/swimming (remove them before getting in the water). Click here for a full buying guide. 

Last, compression stockings require special care, and you have to be on top of washing them at all times, or you might get stuck with that last clean pair that doesn’t go with what you wanted to wear. Run your stockings through the wash on the “gentle” or “hand washables” cycle, and never put them in the dryer.

 

Swimming is Your New Best Friend

It’s difficult to find pain-free, heartbeat-raising exercise that doesn’t require putting strain on your legs. This was one of the hardest transitions for me—running, jogging, cycling, dancing, aerobics, lower body weight lifting or bodyweight exercises, and most yoga poses are suddenly crossed off the list.

There are many choices that target the core and upper body, but when it comes to working out your legs, the only recommendation I could find is walking, which doesn’t give you quite the same level of workout.

That is, until a holistic herbalist recommended swimming. She described the blood as the “water of the body,” so thought being immersed in water might be a good way to help it flow. Not only is swimming a great way to cool down from all those sweaty stockings, it provides an intense workout for the legs and cardio system without reflux or pain.

 

How You Sit & Stand Matters

One day as I was cooking in my kitchen, my sister pointed out that I was locking my knees as I stood. I have hyperextended knees, so it’s actually more comfortable and natural for me to stand with them locked out—but it’s not good for blood flow in the lower legs.

Pay attention to your posture when you’re standing. If you notice that you lock your knees out too, try to correct yourself as often as possible by putting a slight bend in your knees. This will make it easier for blood to flow through the veins, and won’t cause blood to pool as quickly.

The same goes for sitting—I used to be a big fan of sitting with my legs crossed, or sitting with one leg folded underneath my body. It won’t be hard to remember that these positions aren’t good for you; all it takes is a minute or two before you’ll notice the aching and pooling from your circulation being impeded. Sitting cross-legged (in lotus pose), kneeling, and squatting are also very uncomfortable and will quickly cause pain and backup.

Instead, keep your legs straight and uncrossed, and if possible elevate them on a stool, stack of pillows, another chair, or an ottoman while you’re sitting down.

 

Certain Types of Shoes Are Out

Not too long after receiving my diagnosis, I went out wearing a pair of very popular tennis shoes. In the middle of dinner, I was suddenly overtaken with intense pain in my feet, and had to rapidly unlace and take them off under the table-inconvenient at best; quite embarrassing at worst.

It turns out, the iconic narrow capped toe of these particular shoes is restricting on the feet, and when they’re already struggling with extra blood, this can quickly cause a circulation problem. I can still wear them if I lace them very loosely, but even so, wearing them for too long starts to hurt.

The same goes for any shoe style that is typically worn tight or snug, especially lace-up shoes and boots. If you have the option, make sure your laces are as loose as possible while still being supportive, or buy the next half size up.

Either way, pay special attention when buying new shoes, and take plenty of time to walk around in them and see how your feet and legs respond. Personally, I have a hard time wearing anything with a heel because of the strain on the feet, but can get away with a small wedge. Find what works for you.

If any of these lifestyle changes sound familiar or if you’ve noticed pain in your legs and feet, call Bunker Vein & Imaging at (512) 726-0599 to schedule a free screening and find out more about treatment options.

 

Image of buying compression stockings

Compression socks and stockings are one of the easiest ways to provide daily relief to swollen or aching legs, a common symptom of varicose veins and venous insufficiency. But once you start shopping around, the numbers, sizes, and choices can be overwhelming.

When Dr. Bunker diagnosed me with chronic venous insufficiency  (CVI), one of the first orders of business was buying myself some medical-grade compression stockings—I’d been wearing the same two pairs of pink compression sports socks for nearly a year, and trying to match my clothes to them was a nightmare.

After hours and hours of price checking, researching, scrolling, and comparing, we’ve put together this buying guide so that you know exactly what to look for.

Get Fitted

Just like a wedding dress or tuxedo, compression stockings have to be properly fitted in order to be the most effective. The tightness of the stocking is graduated, meaning that it starts out the tightest at your ankle and gradually loosens moving up the leg. Since all of our bodies are unique, sizing for compression is based on your specific measurements.

Locally, The Comfort Store on Burnet Road is a great resource for being professionally fitted, and the staff there is extremely helpful about selecting the right size and style for you. Because they offer personalized assistance and a range of the highest quality compression garments, you should be prepared to spend $100 or more for one pair. You will be able to put them on or take them home immediately, and feel confident that you’ve made the right choice.

If that isn’t in your budget, there are tons of more affordable options online. Most online vendors offer sizing charts and sizing guides, which are all based on the same set of measurements. If you will be sizing yourself, here’s what you’ll need:

 

  • A soft measuring tape
  • A pen and paper to write down the following measurements, in inches:
    • The circumference (distance around) of the smallest part of your ankle
    • The circumference of the widest part of your calf muscle
    • The circumference of the widest part of your thigh, about 2 inches below your bum
    • The distance from the floor to your knee
    • The distance from the floor to your thigh, about 2 inches below your bum
    • If you would like a pair of stockings or hose (instead of single knee- or thigh-highs), you will also need the circumference of the widest part of your hips.

If you are taking your own measurements, be as exact as possible. Take each measurement at least twice, to be sure you’re hitting the right number. My feet and legs are different sizes, so I took each set of measurements for each leg.

Make Sure It’s Medical Grade

If you’re shopping online, you’ll need to take extra care to carefully read each product listing, specifically looking for the words “medical grade.” Many brands and styles claim to have the right levels of compression (more on that below), but if they don’t clearly say “medical grade,” you’re not going to get the quality or tightness that you need for relief.

Know Your Levels

Compression stockings are rated on a scale of millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which denotes how tight they will be. The levels range from 8-15mmHg at the lowest, to 30-40mmHg at the highest.

If you are wearing compression to prevent, relieve, or treat symptoms of vein disease, you will need 20-30mmHg minimum. If you have already developed severe varicose veins or venous ulcers, or if you are at risk for deep vein thrombosis  (DVT), you should look for 30-40mmHg. If you just want support for your legs during the day, but don’t have any symptoms of vein disease, you should be fine with 8-15 or 15-20mmHg.

As I learned when I got my new collection of compression garments, every brand is slightly different, and although two pairs of socks or stockings might both be rated at the same level, one might feel slightly tighter or looser than another.

Find the Style That Suits You

So you have your size and level down…but there are still so many choices. Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the major styles of compression garments:

Thigh-Highs are the style Dr. Bunker recommends. They are single stockings that come to just a couple of inches below your bum, offering compression for the entire leg. Pro: You don’t have to take them off to use the bathroom. Con: They tend to roll or slide down your leg during the day, so look for silicone tops that stick and prevent this. They are also harder to wear with shorts.

Knee-Highs come to just under your knee. They only offer compression for the feet and lower legs, but are easier for daily wear in the Texas summer. Pro: I love knee highs because they’re so much easier to coordinate with your clothing and tend to come in a wider range of patterns and colors. Con: You have to rotate these with thigh-highs to make sure you’re getting relief for your whole leg. Also, some brands are uncomfortable at the top, leaving a mark or causing itching at the back of the knee at the end of the day.

Stockings or Hose are one piece that you put on like pants and that covers both legs. Pro: Full stockings provide the most comprehensive coverage for the entire leg and groin. Con: They are very difficult to manage for daily wear. Harder to put on and take off, must be taken down to use the bathroom, and very hot on sunny days.

Footless compression garments are my absolute favorite. You can find footless options in any of the styles above. Rather than covering your whole foot like a sock, they stop at the ankle. This means that you can easily wear flats, sandals, or flip flops with your compression (not the case with footed styles). They’re also much cooler on hot days.

Sleeves are short compression garments often worn by athletes, usually covering just from the ankle to below the knee. These are much easier to wear and find in fun colors, but are typically lower-grade and not sufficient for managing or preventing vein symptoms. I have a pair that I cycle into my rotation, but I wouldn’t trust them for a concert or travel or anything else that puts a lot of strain on the legs.

Leggings are often sold as compression garments in sports stores. I would put these in the 8-15mmHg category, even though they are not typically rated. They look nice, and they’re a good choice for extra support, but they can’t take the place of a pair of medical grade socks or stockings.

Check with Your Insurance

Some insurance companies will cover the cost of your compression garments if you are using them as conservative therapy in the treatment of vein symptoms. In order to make sure you’re covered, check with your carrier for details. Most companies will only cover certain styles, such as those that extend down to the foot or cover the entire leg.

Read Reviews

Even after narrowing down all of these choices, there are still dozens of brands and products you’ll have to consider. The best way I’ve found to judge the quality of any one brand or style is to search for it on Amazon.

Look for a listing that has the most customer reviews and scroll down to read them. Keep in mind that the happiest and unhappiest customers are usually the ones who leave reviews, so reading as many as you can will help get a fair view.

Usually, customer reviews include all kinds of helpful information—I almost bought a few pairs of some cute patterned socks I found, until I read many people say that they lost their compression after very little use. Other reviews helped me pick knee-highs that don’t pinch at the top and thigh-highs that don’t roll down.

Buy More Than One Pair

If you’re wearing compression daily, you’ve got to have more than one pair of good socks or stockings that you actually like wearing. Why? First and foremost, you can only wear them once or twice before they’ll need to be washed, and no one wants to do laundry every day.

Aside from that, I have found it really helpful to have more than one style and color to choose from when I’m getting dressed. I got my favorite pair of footless knee-highs in both beige and black, which gives me much more flexibility with my outfits. I also found some blue herringbone socks and pink sleeves, which aren’t as effective as thigh-highs, but work well for short outings or parties when I want something a little more fun.

It took me lots of research, but in the end, I started my collection with 2 pairs of footless knee-highs, 1 pair of footed thigh-highs, 1 set of sleeves, and 2 pairs of socks for $230 at CompressionSale.com.

Beware Cute Compression

It is very, very difficult to find high quality compression garments in anything other than solid colors, mostly beige and black, and a few simple patterns. If you find a company that offers really snazzy designs and colors, watch out! In my experience, they only come in the lowest level (8-15mHgg), if they are rated at all.

Of all of the garments listed above, the only ones I had to send back were the cute ones. I got a pair of pink striped socks from Sigvaris, otherwise a great brand, but they were nowhere near as tight as the rest, despite being sold as 20-30mmHg.

Don’t Put Them in the Dryer

One last bit of advice to get the most out of your new compression collection—don’t put them in the dryer! They are fine to go through the washing machine on the gentle or hand washable cycle, but should be hung or laid out to dry. Otherwise, the heat will degrade the elastic and your stockings will become loose and baggy.

Now you know all of the basics for making the best compression choices. If you’re drowning in all of this information and need someone to help you, go visit our friends at The Comfort Store. If you have any questions about using compression to treat vein symptoms, or if you think you may be experiencing them, call Bunker Vein & Imaging for a free screening at (512) 726-0599.

 

 

 

 

 

Image of woman holding her leg due to leg pain and vein diagnosisAs I sat in a plushy chair on Thursday morning, adjusting my highly fashionable faux-denim balloon exam shorts, I looked down from the charts of vein systems on the wall at the small, almost imperceptible lump on my right leg. That little lump would lead me to a very surprising discovery.

When I first started as a contributing writer for an Austin-area vein specialist a little over a year ago, I knew nothing about vein health—and if you had told me that mine was at risk, I probably would have laughed.

I even wrote about how varicose veins and venous reflux are often considered to affect only the elderly, but can occur in younger people too. I just didn’t think I would be one of them.

It Started At Zumba

The night before my 30th birthday, I went to Zumba, one of my favorite ways to exercise (and overall favorite things to do). I had to walk out less than halfway through—the sides of both of my calf muscles were throbbing, sending rushing waves down to the tops of my feet, which in turn ached and tingled. This wasn’t a new thing, but tonight the pain was too much, even in my compression socks, and I drove home bawling.

The truth is, I crossed paths with this strange pain almost a year prior, also in Zumba. I’d been hitting the salsa and cumbia steps hard for a good month or two, and one day the side of my right calf was just screaming in pain.

This wasn’t a typical muscle soreness—it was more of a dull, throbbing ache—and when pausing to stretch and then jumping back into the routine made it many times worse, I had to stop and sit out. A shooting tingle had joined the ache and the usually-minor lump on my leg grew to many times its size.

I’d first noticed the lump 15 years ago, on drill team in high school. Back then it only popped out when I squatted, but never caused me any pain, and I assumed it was part of the muscle and didn’t think twice about it- until now.

Caving Into Compression

Back at home, icing the spot, I pored over pages and pages of different Google searches and results trying to sleuth my way to an explanation for the lump. After considering the limited insight internet research can bring you when it comes to the complexities of the body, I decided I had most likely herniated part of my muscle, something noted as common in the calves of runners and triathletes.

I very stubbornly and forlornly agreed to stop going to Zumba for a while. My dad asked if I wanted to borrow a pair of his compression socks. I literally laughed out loud. I’d written about them extensively at this point but never pictured myself in a pair.

“You mean those things for varicose veins? I don’t think I need those,” I said, but he explained that they helped for all kinds of things including just being on your feet, so I obliged and jokingly sent my boss at the writing gig a picture of myself wearing one.

A few weeks later, I had ordered a couple pairs of my own. At least they came in pink.

When I Kept Pushing, It Got Worse

Maybe if I had heeded the warnings of my body back then, and done more to nurture instead of push my legs, I wouldn’t have walked out of Zumba crying a year later. At the advice of my neighbor, a professional physical therapist, I did cut back significantly with the intensity and frequency of my workouts. Although, I just couldn’t quit Zumba, or PiYo, or sweaty vinyasa yoga sequences—and even though I religiously wore my pink sock, the pain got worse, eventually mirroring in the exact same spot on the left leg.

Eventually, I couldn’t get through more than one song while playing “Just Dance” with my little brother and sister.

Eventually, I couldn’t go dancing or to see live music without “the throb” setting in.

Eventually, I couldn’t hold standing yoga poses like warrior or triangle without waves and rushes and aches.

Eventually, it smacked me right in the face that all of the symptoms I was experiencing were the exact same ones I’d been writing about.

And that’s when I finally decided to face the truth that my young veins were struggling. So I called and made an appointment at Bunker Vein & Imaging Center.

Experience is The Best Teacher

As informed as I previously considered myself on matters of venous health, I can’t describe how vastly different it has been to understand it via experience rather than intellect. That alone has probably given me enough material for 5 more blog posts.

In the two weeks between my initial screening and the ultrasound on Thursday, I became exponentially more aware of the sensations in my legs, which I easily could have been tuning out or minimizing for years. If you’ve never viscerally felt the blood traveling through every inch of your vein, let me tell you, it’ll freak you right out.

Eventually, I could feel the stop-start, spotty, clogged flow of blood through/near the lump, like a bent garden hose.

Eventually, I realized the pains on the sides and bottoms of my feet were from the blood pooling and pulsing in the veins there.

Eventually, even cooking a full meal on my feet (something I could easily do for many hours a day before) became a challenge.

Eventually, I found myself following all the advice I’d written about, taking breaks many times a day to elevate my legs up a wall.

Let My Diagnosis Be Your Early Warning

And on Thursday morning, Dr. Bunker confirmed that I have venous insufficiency in both legs. All 4 of the major veins in my legs are refluxing, or allowing blood to flow the wrong way, to varying degrees. The valves which control the flow of blood in our veins are supposed to stay open for a maximum of 1/2 second. At certain points, my valves are staying open for over 3 or 4 seconds, more than 8 times longer than normal.

I’m incredibly lucky and blessed that I just so happened to write for a vein specialist and was unknowingly collecting clues for myself. Otherwise, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to put the puzzle together, or to go in to get checked. Maybe I never would have.

I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I’m still learning. And if there’s one thing I could tell you, it’s this—listen to your body, and don’t assume that your youth, vigor, or fitness level precludes you from vein disease or any other health issue.

I don’t fit many of the typical risk factors for vein disease—I’ve never been pregnant, don’t have a known family history, and am in relatively good shape. I’m still not quite sure how I developed it. Maybe it has to do with being 8 weeks premature, or having 2 different sized legs/feet, or working on my feet as a hostess or seated at a desk job.

Maybe it all happened so that I could write to you about it with more compassion, experience, and depth—to inspire you to take proactive care of your precious body. We only get one.

Please, learn from my mistakes. If you’ve noticed a dull, aching throb, rushing wave-like feelings, or light burning or itching at certain points on your feet and legs, especially after being on your feet, call Bunker Vein & Imaging at (512) 726-0599 for a free screening. Don’t wait until it gets worse. As I learned on my 30th birthday, it will.

image of healthy foods nutrients for healthy veins 

Did you know that certain nutrients have been shown to aid the body in maintaining and restoring veins and the valves that keep our blood pumping? Adding certain foods high in these nutrients into your diet can be an effective way to supplement your treatment plan or work on your vein health preventatively.

 

Here Are 5 Nutrients Your Veins Want More Of:

 

Rutin

Rutin is a type of flavonoid, a compound found in plants that is often responsible for giving pigment, like to apple peels and berries. It is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce inflammation in damaged veins and improve structural integrity and blood flow in veins and capillaries, even preventing blood clots.

The food most often touted for its rutin contents is buckwheat, both eaten as a grain and taken as a tea or extract. But in addition to rutin, buckwheat also contains a combination of other vascular-supportive nutrients, including a high dose of magnesium (which lowers blood pressure and relaxes vessels) and several other antioxidants including quercetin, hyperin, and catechin.

Rutin can also be found in unpeeled apples, citrus zest, asparagus, rooibos or green tea, figs, mulberries and cranberries, or taken as an oral supplement.

 

Fiber 

You may think of fiber primarily for digestion, but it also prevents your body from absorbing unhealthy fats and accumulating cholesterol, which can build in the vascular system and contribute to vein disease.

While many fiber supplements and food products are available on the shelf, the best form of dietary fiber is fresh fruits and vegetables and whole foods, especially lentils, split peas, beans, leafy greens, artichoke, broccoli, avocado, pears, flax, chia, bran, and oatmeal.

 

Vitamin C

 When they’re under pressure, it’s the collagen and elastin in the veins that allow them to   contract and dilate, regulating blood flow. These proteins keep the veins flexible and strong, and also prevent the valves from leaking.

One of the many ways the body uses vitamin C is to manufacture collagen and elastin. Along with oranges and citrus fruit, which have traditionally been noted for their vitamin C levels, you’ll also find it in dark leafy greens, chile and bell peppers, papaya, broccoli, strawberries, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, pineapple and kiwi.

 

Vitamin E

Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT, is one of the higher-risk forms of vein disease that occurs when a clot forms in the deep muscles, often of the leg. Thrombosis, or blood clots, can cause all kinds of problems in the body. But the antioxidant vitamin E can help prevent them from happening.

A study by Harvard Medical School professor Robert J. Glynn shows that vitamin E shows great potential for reducing the risk of DVT, especially among women who had a history of clots. This may be because of the anti-adhesion effect it has on blood platelets, which might prevent them from sticking together to form the clot.

Foods with high doses of vitamin E include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, avocados, shellfish, fish, olive oil, broccoli, squash, pumpkin, kiwi, blackberries, mangos, and peaches.

 

Vitamin K

A study published in the Journal of Vascular Research in 2007 showed that the development of varicose veins could be due in part to a lack of vitamin K.

This vitamin activates a number of “dependent” proteins, one of which, the matrix GLA protein (or MGP), plays a key role in keeping veins clean, healthy and strong. When the body doesn’t have enough vitamin K, the protein doesn’t activate, and veins are at risk.

There are two main forms of vitamin K. K1 can be found in broccoli and leafy green vegetable like spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, beet greens, and dandelion greens. K2 can be found in grass-fed and fermented dairy, including natto, Gouda, and Brie.

Even the healthiest diet full of vein-enriching nutrients isn’t enough on its own to reverse varicose veins or venous insufficiency. If you’re experiencing leg pain, aching, or swelling, call Bunker Vein at (512) 726-0599 to schedule your complimentary consultation. Combined with these vein-supporting foods, your treatment plan will get you back to happy legs in no time.

image of deep vein thrombosis warning sign

This March, we’re joining leading medical and health organizations around the country for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness Month, to help spread knowledge about this common and (in some cases) potentially fatal condition. While the American Heart Association estimates up to 2 million monthly cases of DVT in the U.S., nearly 3/4 of Americans surveyed by the American Public Health Association had little to no awareness of it.

With just a few key pieces of information, you can better protect yourself and your loved ones from missing the signs, and reduce your chances of developing DVT.

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

In the simplest terms, DVT is another name for a blood clot (thrombus) in the deep veins, most often of the legs. These veins aren’t the same as the surface (or “superficial”) veins often visible from the skin; they are bigger and deeper in the muscle tissue. When a clot forms within them, it can block circulation and cause symptoms ranging from barely noticeable to painful to critical.

What are the Symptoms of DVT?

The most easily detectable cases of DVT include swelling, pain, and sometimes discolored or hot skin on the affected leg. If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms, you do not necessarily have DVT—other conditions, including sore or strained muscles, vein inflammation, phlebitis, and skin infection can exhibit the same symptoms.

Cases in the lower leg are rarely serious, but clots above the knee can lead to a blocked blood vessel in the lung, known as pulmonary embolism, which forms when the clot breaks away from its original location and travels up the bloodstream. While it is easily preventable, in some rare cases, this can cause serious health problems and may be fatal.

How Do I Know if I Have DVT?

Almost half of all DVT cases are known as “silent,” meaning they may have little to no noticeable symptoms. The only way to know for certain whether or not you may have DVT is to visit a vein specialist for a venous ultrasound or other professional detection methods.

How Can I Reduce My Risk for DVT?

The best treatment for DVT is actually prevention. A healthy, moderately active lifestyle that includes regular exercise and good nutrition helps circulation and takes pressure off of the legs by promoting healthy weight. If you travel frequently or spend long periods of time standing or sitting, take extra measures to move and elevate your legs and stay hydrated. Wearing medical-grade compression stockings can also greatly increase comfort and circulation.

How is DVT Treated?

Aside from prevention, DVT is most often treated with anti-coagulant medications, which decrease the blood’s propensity to clot and prevent existing clots from getting bigger. These medicines themselves don’t break down clots though; the body typically does that on its own over time. The length of time they are prescribed depends on each particular patient.

In the case of larger or life-threatening clots, a doctor may use medications called thrombolytics, which act quickly to dissolve the clot.

If you think you may be at risk for or currently experiencing DVT and would like to find out for sure, call Bunker Vein & Imaging at (512) 726-0599 to schedule a free consultation. Don’t take a gamble on this one…one complimentary appointment could save your life!

 

yogaexercise

5 Tips to Make Sure the Answer is No

As spring time starts to bring nicer weather and wake us up out of sleepy winter, it’s a great time to hit the hike and bike trail, take a stroll around the neighborhood, or find some other way you really enjoy to get healthy movement. Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent and manage spider veins—as long as you’re doing the right kind.

Here are 5 essential tips for choosing exercise that helps get your blood moving without being strenuous or damaging for your spider vein symptoms:

Understand What’s Going On in Your Body

One of the best ways to ensure that your exercise routine never puts you at risk of injuring yourself or worsening your vein health is to really understand what’s happening in your body and “listen” to the signals it sends you.

Spider veins and varicose veins are a result of blood not pumping correctly upward from the feet and legs, which is especially important during strenuous exercise. “Venous reflux” is the regression of blood back down toward the legs, when it should be pumped up to the vena cava in the abdomen, and then to the heart.

Therefore, any exercise that puts extra or extended strain or restriction on your feet, calf muscles, and/or abs is likely to further disrupt the flow of blood and cause pain and aching. Pay attention to rushing feelings, throbbing or aching in the legs and ease up on yourself right away. Try to choose activities that don’t restrict or strain these areas.

Walk, Don’t Run

In general, walking is a better bet than running or jogging for most people struggling with vein health, even if they are young. Walking is gentle but still gets your heart pumping, and stretches the calf which improves blood flow. It can be adapted to pretty much any environment, schedule or ability level.

Running, on the other hand, typically causes a much higher impact to your feet, legs, and joints, and can be so strenuous as to place further stress on backed up veins. If you’re experiencing any issues with spider or varicose veins, walking is the safest choice.

Go For Low Impact and High Circulation

The best types of exercises for nurturing and improving vein health are ones that are easy on your body and encourage circulation and blood flow in the legs without requiring too much straining effort.

Stationary equipment like an exercise bike or elliptical treadmill are great options because they allow you to adjust your intensity and get your legs pumping without putting too much pressure on them.

Other good examples are swimming at a moderate pace, mid-tempo dance, and low- to moderate-incline hikes.

Avoid Anything That Overly Strains The Abs

The vena cava, a main vein in the abdomen that carries deoxygenated blood back up to the heart, is a key player when it comes to managing healthy blood flow during exercise. If the vena cava is under pressure or strain when your legs attempt to send blood back upward, it’s much more likely to reflux and pool back down in the legs.

Examples of exercises that should be avoided include crunches and sit-ups, variations like bicycle crunches, v-sits, and leg lifts, weight-lifting, pilates, and extended yoga poses that place strain on the abdomen.

If you want to improve your core strength, opt for resistance training with light weight, bodyweight, or resistance bands.

Wear Compression Socks!

During and after any kind of exercise, wearing compression socks is a great way to help your legs. These can be found at some drug stores or online, and provide extra support through an extra-tight elastic fit that helps prevent blood from getting backed up. Many active and athletic people struggling with vein health make compression socks a part of their regular workout uniform!

Getting regular, healthy movement is a great way to take good care of your body and manage spider veins. As long as you follow these simple guidelines, you can make exercise a part of your regular self-care plan without doing any harm.

Do you have questions about spider veins or think you may be showing symptoms? Call Bunker Vein and Imaging at (512) 726-0599 and we’ll schedule you for a free consultation.

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