Monday, August 31, 2015

Q&A with the newest member of the VHC team

Meet Alison Scheib, PA-C! As a certified Physician Assistant, Ali supports Dr. Cindy Asbjornsen, founder of the Vein Healthcare Center. As a trained sclerotherapist, she performs ultrasound-guided and light-assisted sclerotherapy, a procedure for treating venous insufficiency, particularly smaller “spider veins.”

In addition to spending time with her husband (a fellow PA-C at a veterans hospital) and their two children, Ali loves outdoor activities like swimming and waterskiing. Read on to learn more about Ali.

Q:  What is a Physician Assistant?
A:  A physician assistant, or PA, is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers and can prescribe medication. I earned my PA degree from the University of South Alabama and practiced Family Medicine for 15 years in Camden, Maine. 

Q:  How do you help patients at VHC?
A:  I perform ultrasound-guided and light assisted-sclerotherapy on patients, sometimes in follow-up to EVLA treatment. Dr. Asbjornsen and I work together as a team to treat each patient to achieve the best outcome. 

Q: What is your goal for each patient?
A: To make them feel better, both mentally and physically. After treatment, I want them to feel comfortable wearing shorts if that’s important to them. I want them to experience activities that they couldn’t do before because their legs were too sore or tired. I want them to be—and feel—healthier!

Q: Why are you a good fit for VHC?
A: I have the primary care background to see the patient as a whole person, not just the one ailment they’re seeking help for. And like the rest of the staff, I like to spend time with patients to make sure they are comfortable and understand their medical disease and treatment options. 

Q: What do you like the most about vein care?
A: I love being able to focus on one aspect of a patient's healthcare while still treating the "whole" person. I’m also excited that phlebology is still a fairly new specialty, and I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Asbjornsen on doing research that can continue to advance the field.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Environmental risks for vein disease

There are a number of risk factors for vein problems. Aging is one of the leading risk factors for the development of vein issues. Heredity is another. (If one parent has vein disease you have about a 33% chance of also developing vein problems. If both of your parents have vein issues, then your chances go up to 90 percent.)

While aging and family history are risk factors that can’t be controlled (try as we might), venous disease can be aggravated by environmental risks. It is much more common in “industrial countries” like the U.S., where riding in cars and sitting in front of a computer or television seem like a way of life.
We explored the risks involved in sitting in a previous post, but standing for long periods (with or without high heels) is also a risk factor. Research has shown that the more hours one stands, the more likely it is that a vein issue will develop. Likewise, lying in one position for too long can cause serious vein problems. Patients in the hospital or on bed rest, for example, may experience a slowdown in blood flow that can lead to blood pooling in the extremities.

As Dr. Asbjornsen explained in her chapter “Risk Factors and Other Causes for Vein Problems” in the book Healthy Veins…Healthy Legs, it is possible to reduce some risk factors for vein disease.

There are many treatment options today that are minimally invasive and highly successful, but education and prevention are the most important keys to vein health. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, a venous screening can evaluate the condition of your venous system, help you avoid blood clots, and help you begin lifestyle changes that can prevent symptoms from occurring. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The risks of…sitting?

Are you sitting down? Chances are, you are! It seems like our whole world was designed to keep us in a seated position, usually in front of a screen, whether during work or leisure time.

Earlier this year, a recent article found that this overwhelmingly sedentary behavior increases our risk of getting preventable conditions, even if we exercise. The studies showed that physical inactivity (the fourth-leading risk factor for death for people all around the world, according to the World Health Organization) can lead to premature death from cardiovascular issues and cancer, as well as cause chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.

Too much sitting can also increase the risk of getting varicose veins—and if you already have vein issues, you may notice that symptoms get worse after sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Why? The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body through the arteries. Veins then carry blood from all the extremities back up to the heart. The blood in the legs travels up against gravity, so when the valves in the veins become damaged, blood flows back into the legs which leads to a “pooling” of blood in the veins that can manifest as varicose veins or spider veins. 

When you sit (or stand) in the same position for a long time, the blood doesn’t circulate properly and, over time, this can lead to varicose veins.

There are a several ways to help reduce the risk of getting varicose veins from sitting for too long:
  • Sit properly. Focus on good posture and avoid crossing your legs or sitting in ways that can compress veins for prolonged periods.
  • Elevate. Occasionally, rest your legs above your heart – for as long as 30 minutes or as briefly as three minutes. (For more tips on elevation, click here.)
  • Take a break. Take frequent walking breaks to avoid sitting or standing for periods of more than two hours.
  • Pump it. If you can’t move around that often – or are flying on an airplane – try flexing and pointing your foot to get the blood moving in your legs. (Click here to learn more about “the foot pump.”)
Of course, the best way to reduce your risk of getting varicose veins from sitting all day is to move around more – and be aware of just how much time you spend sitting down.