New hope for painful, unsightly veins

By Vicki Hyatt | Apr 06, 2014

For those suffering the pain and unsightliness of varicose veins or other venous problems, the latest technology offers new hope.

Dr. Al Mina, a MedWest-Haywood board-certified surgeon, told capacity audiences at three different sessions last week the painful vein stripping process that used to be the solution for painful and swollen legs is thing of the past.

“We used to literally make an incision and pull the vein out, from the ankle to the thigh,” Mina said. “It was done under general anesthesia and it was not a pleasant process.”

Now, compression hose is seen as a viable option in some instances for the 25 percent of the female population and 15 percent of the male population in the U.S. who suffer from venous disease.

The downside is the difficulty in putting on the extremely tight hose, it is hot in the summer and once the hose is removed, the problem comes immediately back.

A second option is a minimally invasive procedure done under a local anesthetic in a doctor’s office, Mina said. The process called thermal ablation takes less than an hour, requires only one small incision and requires no recovery time. There is a 99 percent success rate.

A third option for those who want to repair the unsightliness of “spider veins,” a process called schlerotherapy is available. This could involve one or more visits to the doctor’s office and involves injecting a solution into the veins that will cause the dark, red appearance to gradually fade.

Unlike other venous problems, the spider veins don’t post a health danger.

“We say, ‘if they don’t bother you, we don’t bother them,’” Mina said.

Other venous problems are more serious, and left untreated, can lead to blood clots and ulcers. The disease is accompanied by leg pain or swelling, burning or itching skin, heavy and tired legs, cramps and neuropathy.

Most people with venous disease get it because it runs in their family, Mina said, noting that if a person’s parents had varicose veins, the individual has an 89 percent chance of having it, too. Those in professions requiring long periods of sitting or standing also are at higher risk for the disease.

Following each presentation held at the Outpatient Care Center, a team working with Mina at the Haywood Vein Center provided individual counseling sessions for those who were interested in learning more.

Donna Wilkins was anxious to be evaluated.

"I think a vein center in Haywood County is sorely needed," she said. "I've not worn shorts in years because of them, yet I never knew that I had them as I've had no pregnancies — my children are adopted. I've experienced several of the symptoms of venous disease (actually, didn't know it was a disease), including the itching.?

The public information session on venous disease hit a responsive chord within the community, said Johanna Dewees, a nurse who works with the program.

There were so many people who pre-registered for the program they couldn’t all be accommodated, and there’s a waiting list of 20 for the next program, she said.