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Varicose Veins? Why Surgery Usually Isn’t the Answer

September 14, 2020
Are you one of the more than 40 million people in the U.S. living with varicose veins? Jennifer Heller, MD, RPVI, FACS, Director of the Vein Center at GBMC and Medical Director of the Wound Center at GBMC, talked with Mary Beth Marsden about what increases your risk of developing varicose veins, what treatments are available, and what you can do to help keep your veins as healthy as possible. Mary Beth also talked with Dr. Heller’s associate, Esther Kim, CRNP, FNP-BC, CWOCN, about laser tattoo and hair removal services available at The Vein Center.

“It’s easy to distinguish spider veins from varicose veins,” Dr. Heller explained. “Spider veins are not raised and range in color from light pink to purple. Varicose veins, on the other hand, are bumpy to the touch and visible. They also change size depending on whether you’re standing, sitting, or laying down. What happens is that the valves in the veins that help move the blood from the feet back up to the heart and lungs aren’t working correctly. Blood accumulates in the leg veins and these veins become enlarged. Many people don’t experience any symptoms from their varicose veins, but for some they cause heaviness and achiness in the legs and increase the risk for phlebitis, skin changes, itching, scarring, and venous ulcers.”

The factors that increase your risk of developing varicose veins include being female, being older, the number of pregnancies you have, and trauma to the leg. And while many people assume that having varicose veins means you need surgery, Dr. Heller said that is not the case.

“If you have no symptoms, we do not and should not intervene surgically,” she said. “The first treatment is wearing compression stockings, which gives many patients relief from the heaviness in their legs.”

She recommended taking part in activities that engage your calf muscles, like walking or running, to help keep your veins as healthy as possible. She also noted that it’s important to stay well hydrated throughout the day and maintain a healthy weight.

Esther Kim talked with Mary Beth about the advances in laser tattoo and hair removal. “We use a cooling system that numbs and protects the skin during tattoo removal,” she said. “It makes the process more comfortable for the patient.” For people interested in laser hair removal, newer laser technology now makes it possible for patients with any skin color to undergo the process. “Before this technology was available, laser hair removal only worked on light colored skin. Now anyone can safely have this treatment.”
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