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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Ask The Expert: Varicose Veins

Fall 2012

Ask The Expert: Varicose Veins

Date: September 3, 2012

Jennifer Heller, M.D., director, Johns Hopkins Vein Center
Jennifer Heller, M.D., director, Johns Hopkins Vein Center

Vascular surgeon, Jennifer Heller, M.D., answers some frequently asked questions:

What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged veins that are swollen and raised above the surface of the skin. They are most commonly found on the back of the calves or the inside of the leg.

Varicose veins develop when valves in the veins that pump blood toward the heart stop working. Blood pools in the veins, and causes them to dilate and appear larger.

What are the risk factors?
Risk factors include age, gender, family history and trauma. Women are more likely than men to develop varicose veins.

What are the symptoms?
Blood pooling in the lower legs can cause feelings of heaviness, fatigue, aching, and sometimes even throbbing in the legs. Over time, symptoms can worsen and develop into superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

When should someone seek treatment?
It’s important to know that just because you have varicose veins, doesn’t mean that you need surgical intervention. Varicose veins can be treated with compression stockings or lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly and not sitting or standing for long periods of time.

You should seek medical advice when varicose veins cause pain, blood clots, skin ulcers or other problems.

At the Johns Hopkins Vein Center, our vascular surgeons provide a unique perspective on the diagnosis and treatment of varicose veins. We are specially trained to recognize the complexities of vascular disease, and are equipped to treat you appropriately and safely.

For more information about the Johns Hopkins Vein Center, call 410-550-VEIN (8346).

To hear Dr. Heller discuss varicose vein treatment, visit