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Venous Issues Q & A with Dr. Jennifer Heller

May 26, 2017
Varicose veins: Myths, facts, and treatments

Was your mom right when she warned you that crossing your legs would cause varicose veins? Why are women more likely to have vein disease than men? How quickly do people recover from the latest treatments for varicose veins? ABC2News Good Morning Maryland host Ashley James and Dr. Jennifer Heller, Director of the Vein Center at GBMC and Medical Director of GBMC’s Wound Care Center, answered Facebook Live viewers’ questions about these and other vein health issues.

Explaining what causes vein disease, Dr. Heller said, “Veins have the harder job in terms of our circulation. They need to pump the blood up from our legs back to our hearts against gravity. If the valves between those veins don’t close all the way, blood can pool in the leg veins, causing varicose veins.” Unfortunately, women’s hormones, especially during pregnancy, increase the risk of vein disease, so many women find themselves with a feeling of heaviness and fatigue in their legs, some of the first signs of vein disease.

While genetics do a play a role in the likelihood that you’ll develop vein disease, there are some proactive steps you can take to lower your risk. Staying active is the number one recommendation. Exercises that flex the ankle and use your calf muscles help push the blood back up to your heart, lowering the stress on your veins. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important. If you have the early stages of vein disease, compression stockings can also be helpful, but Dr. Heller says they can get hot and cumbersome during those Baltimore summers.

While the varicose vein surgery of a decade or so again could be quite painful and required a hospital stay and long recovery period, the latest treatments are minimally invasive and done on an outpatient basis. “After varicose vein treatment, patients are home in a few hours, walking around, with no need for strong pain medications,” said Dr. Heller.

You might be surprised to learn that if your varicose veins aren’t causing any symptoms, you don’t need to treat them. The best way to find out if treatment is the right option for you is to talk with your primary care doctor or a vein specialist.
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