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Johns Hopkins Health - Vanity Aside

Spring 2009
Issue No. 4

Vanity Aside

Date: April 24, 2009

legs with flower

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to varicose veins. Untreated, these unsightly protrusions on the legs can be debilitating

Varicose veins usually top the list of complaints that women have about their physical appearance, particularly when warm weather arrives and legs are bared for all to see.

But assuming that the only downside to varicose veins is their unsightliness is a mistake. Also called venous reflux, it is the result of a malfunction that causes blood to collect in the veins. If it goes untreated, appearance is the least of the problems. Ultimately, ulcers on the legs may result.

“It can be debilitating,” says Johns Hopkins vascular surgeon Jennifer Heller, M.D. “The majority of my patients are people who spend a lot of time on their feet. Eventually, they can barely stand up.”

That’s why it’s important to get varicose veins checked. They are different than spider veins, which also are unsightly but don’t require treatment except for cosmetic reasons.

Physicians use ultrasound to diagnose varicose veins and may recommend surgery depending on the degree of malfunction. And surgery for varicose veins has come a long way. Painful vein stripping used to require large incisions in the groin and leg, as well as a lengthy recovery.

“Today, we’ve got a number of minimally invasive options that give you the same results with less pain and time,” Heller says.

Did You Know?

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy are a leading cause of varicose veins.
  • Obesity, genetics and prolonged standing also affect the chances of developing varicose veins.
  • Being a woman makes you more likely to develop varicose veins, but men get them too.
  • Regular exercise can help to reduce the likelihood of varicose veins.

The Johns Hopkins Vein Center diagnoses and treats the entire spectrum of venous disorders. To learn more, visit or call 877-546-1872.

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