Q: What is aneurysm screening and who should get it?
Dr. Robert Connaughton, vascular surgeon, Maui Health System: Aneurysm screening is a procedure to check whether the aorta is dilated or stretched out. The test is an ultrasound scan, which is a painless procedure.
In an aneurysm, the aorta dilates over time, weakening the walls of the blood vessel. Eventually, in some cases, it can rupture. When that happens, the person has only minutes to get to the hospital for a chance of survival. The aneurysm won’t cause any symptoms until it bursts, so the only way someone can know they are at risk is through screening.
Anyone over age 65, or anyone who is over 50 and smokes, should be screened. And because this condition can be hereditary, if you have a relative who has had an aneurysm, you should be checked as well.
Fortunately, if an aneurysm is caught early, there is effective treatment. You can help keep it from growing by controlling your blood pressure. And if intervention is needed, a vascular surgeon can fix the problem by inserting a stent. This can be done in a simple surgery, and the patient usually goes home the next day.
Q: What is Hashimoto’s Disease? What are the signs and symptoms?
Dr. David Crow, Otolaryngologist: Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects your thyroid. The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your throat that produces hormones to regulate your metabolism — how quickly your body processes energy from food. With Hashimoto’s Disease, your immune system attacks your thyroid, causing inflammation that leads to hypothyroidism. That means your thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones, so your metabolism slows down.
One of the first symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease is a swollen thyroid, called goiter. Over time, the disease can also cause weight gain, fatigue, depression, stiff joints and muscles, hair loss, unusually heavy periods and brain fog. More serious complications can occur if the disease is left untreated. Hashimoto’s Disease is more common in women than men, can run in families and is more likely to appear in people who also have other autoimmune disorders.
Fortunately, this disease can be managed effectively with hormone replacement. If you have concerns or are experiencing symptoms, talk with your primary care physician. If you need to see a specialist, your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist or otolaryngologist (also known as an ENT or Ear, Nose and Throat doctor).
Q: What causes varicose veins?
Dr. Robert Connaughton, vascular surgeon, Maui Health System: For most people, varicose veins are a cosmetic issue. If you have big, ropy veins that stand out from your skin, they can be treated or removed surgically at a vein clinic.
Sometimes varicose veins are caused when the valves in your blood vessels aren’t working properly. Veins move used blood back up to your heart, and the valves are supposed to prevent backflow. When they stop working, the veins can become dilated.
In most cases, this isn’t a problem, but if your deep veins are affected, it can lead to more serious issues. An ultrasound screening can determine if you have a valve problem that needs to be fixed.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.