Kristin Huber of Portland first started noticing her varicose veins after the birth of her third child. They have caused her pain as well as embarrassment.
“They have affected my body image. I try to hide them with panty hose, or the spray-on tanning lotion. I looked into surgery and the doctor said they weren’t severe, even though on occasion they are painful. They really bothered me during all of my three pregnancies. Before and after my pregnancies, I wore special support hose even in the dead of summer, on the beach with shorts,” said Huber. “I tried to wear support hose to keep them from getting worse as well as to hide them. If I went on a long hike they would bother me and swell. If I am going up the stairs and someone is following me, I think they are looking at the veins in the back of my legs.”
Like Huber, many women share the same feelings. Most of the time, younger women are more concerned about body image and varicose veins, according to Dr. David Butzel, a cardiologist at Maine Cardiology Associates in South Portland.
“Whether varicose veins affect a woman’s body image often depends on age. Most people who are more mature are more interested in feeling better than looking better,” said Butzel. “Women who are younger care more about body image and have the cosmetic treatments more often than older women.” .
There are multiple ways to treat varicose veins or the smaller spider veins. One treatment, called a phlebectomy, involves the doctor numbing the skin over the veins and then pulling them out.
“When you do that, you are only removing superficial small veins, they bleed a little and they heal up,” said Butzel.
If untreated, some varicose veins can lead to pain and severe health problems because the veins in the legs circulate the blood back to the heart. Large “ropey” varicose veins can be associated with back-leaking, which can cause the veins to drain blood back into the legs, resulting in vein disease, chronic swelling, discomfort and ulcerations
In addition to varicose veins, moles can also affect a woman’s body image – positively or negatively. A mole placed strategically above the lip, which is model Cindy Crawford’s trademark, is called a beauty mark, while moles in other areas can be an embarrassment.
Moles affect self-image depending on the number and location, according to Dr. Joel Sabean, a dermatologist in South Portland.
“Most mole removals are evenly distributed among women aged from after the teen years into their 50s. Facial moles tend to interrupt the symmetry and a clear complexion, which most of us are genetically wired for. These affect self-image because you can’t get an even skin form. Also, moles can be irritated by glasses. Some moles can become mechanical problems if they are irritated by undergarments,” said Sabean. “Some younger women may have a lot of moles on the trunk of the body that can be seen when they are wearing bathing suits or other summer clothing.”
Most moles can be removed without any problems, though there can be the chance for scarring. Most moles are harmless, but moles that are more than a quarter-inch in size that have appeared after the age of 40, are not uniform in color or outline or have changed in appearance recently, should be examined by a doctor.
Roberta Douglass of Sebago recently had a mole removed from her leg, not because of body image but because during a routine physical, her doctor said the mole looked suspicious. A test revealed that the mole was pre-cancerous.
“I was happy to have it removed and didn’t give it a second thought,” said Douglass. “I just wanted to be rid of anything that could lead to cancer.”
With varicose veins as well as moles, if removal is for purely cosmetic reasons, insurance probably won’t cover the cost. However, for an improved body image, the surgery may be worth the money.