Vein Problems Gone, She's Back in Ski BootsMost people look forward to putting their feet up at the end of the day. Not Coleen Rosen, 47, of Whitefish Bay, Wis. Coleen, a nurse who works for a pharmaceutical company, suffered from severe varicose veins. Each month, throbbing and swelling veins forced her to stay home for an entire week to elevate her legs.
In addition to causing pain, Coleen’s varicose veins got in the way of the biking, skiing and hiking activities she loved. Her legs also interfered with her work as a volunteer national ski patroller in the Kettle Moraine area.
“My legs just weren’t functional,” she said. “It was very painful to put ski boots on and I often couldn’t wear them.”
Varicose veins form when valves in the vein become weak and don’t close properly, allowing blood to flow backward or reflux. Veins can become bulged with pools of blood when they fail to circulate blood properly. These visible and bulging veins are often associated with symptoms such as tired, heavy or aching limbs. In severe cases, varicose veins can rupture, or open sores (ulcers) can form on the skin. Varicose veins are most common in the legs and thighs.
Coleen had experienced varicose veins since she was 21. As time passed and she had three children, her symptoms only became worse. “My son said, ‘Mom, you have garden hoses up and down your legs,’” Coleen said. “It was true; I was more veins than legs.”
This type of vein disorder often occurs in families, which was the case for Coleen. “I remember that my aunts had vein stripping,” she said.
Vein stripping, once the standard treatment for removing varicose veins, involves making an incision in the groin and tying off the vein. A second incision is made near the ankle to tie off the vein at that point. Then, a thin wire tool is inserted through the groin incision to grasp the vein and pull it out.
Finding HelpColeen searched the Yellow Pages to find a vein surgeon, only to be disappointed. “It was a sham,” she said. He did a very meager exam.”
Then, in 2006, Coleen learned about the Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Comprehensive Vein Clinic, staffed by a team of Medical College of Wisconsin physicians with expertise and experience in vascular surgery and interventional radiology.
“I was very impressed with the one-on-one care I received,” Coleen said. “I felt nurtured and attended to, and the treatment times fit well with my schedule.”
The Comprehensive Vein Clinic performs three advanced procedures — sclerotherapy, microphlebectomy and laser ablation — to treat varicose veins without surgery. (Vein stripping is not performed at the clinic.)
- Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution into the veins through a tiny needle. The solution irritates the lining of the veins, causing them to contract and collapse.
- Microphlebectomy removes varicose veins by making tiny incisions in the skin through which the veins are removed.
- Laser ablation uses laser energy inside a faulty vein to seal it closed, allowing the blood to be diverted to other normal veins.
During the last six months of 2006, Coleen experienced each type of procedure during four treatments at the Comprehensive Vein Clinic.
“There was no down time with the treatments and no pain,” she said. “I was absolutely pleased with the results. I’m not carrying around tree trunks anymore. And I can wear boots now!”
Today, even though Coleen may be on her feet all day, she no longer needs to elevate her legs when she gets home. “I have lighter legs now,” she said.
Author: Marla Fraunfelder
Last Review Date: Aug. 1, 2007
Online Editor(s): Christopher Sadler