Does Wearing High Heels Cause Varicose Veins?

As a male, I admit I don’t know a lot about women’s shoes. I can tell from the pile of footwear my wife and daughters leave in our entryway at home there are many different types, but that’s about it. As a physician, however, I do know that when it comes to varicose veins, shoes matter. If you want to keep your leg veins healthy, you should avoid wearing high heels.

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The Hormone Effect: Progesterone Increases the Risk of Varicose Veins

Many factors can predispose someone to developing varicose veins, including heredity, obesity, and standing for prolonged periods. Both men and women are affected, but not equally. So why are women at such a higher risk of developing venous leg issues?

One of the biggest reasons is hormones, specifically progesterone and its synthetic twin progestin.

Hormone surges during pregnancy

Women’s bodies naturally produce certain levels of progesterone, estrogen, and to a lesser degree, testosterone. However, when a woman becomes pregnant, there is a tremendous fluctuation in hormones, including a surge in progesterone production.

A 2009 study out of Croatia, Effect of progesterone and pregnancy on the development of varicose veins, 1 found a correlation between pregnant women who had higher progesterone levels and increased development of varicose veins. It turns out that leg veins are particularly sensitive to the influx of extra progesterone, which results in weakened vessel walls. Pregnant women also have the additional risk factors of increased abdominal pressure, which inhibits blood flow, and extra blood volume, both of which contribute to the problem.

Hormone supplements can raise your risk

Likewise, women who take progestin-containing birth control pills or hormone supplements to reduce the symptoms of menopause may have an increased risk of developing varicose and spider veins. Even the synthetic version causes vein walls to dilate, making them more prone to problems.

What’s the solution? 

  1. In all cases, walk. The action of walking helps pump blood back toward the heart and prevents it from pooling in the legs. Some people will develop varicose veins no matter what, but walking can reduce their severity.
  2. When at rest, elevate the legs as much as possible to give gravity a chance to help veins return blood to the heart.
  3. Wear compression stockings to apply pressure to your lower legs. If you want to avoid the look of traditional beige stockings, ask for black, which offer a more fashionable tights-like style.
  4. Be evaluated by a specialist. Treating vein disease will help your legs look and feel better and will actually improve the health of your legs.

If you suspect you have a problem with varicose veins, call to schedule your free consultation with Dr. Kezele in Beachwood at 216.464.7333 or Willoughby at 440.946.9080Treatment is covered by most insurance plans.


1 Effect of progesterone and pregnancy on the development of varicose veins. Lenković M, Cabrijan L, Gruber F, Batinac T, Manestar-Blazić T, Stanić Zgombić Z, Stasić A. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2009;17(4):263-7.


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The Low-Risk Benefits of Treating Varicose Veins in Older Patients

One of the most common questions I’m asked by my older patients is whether or not their age and other health conditions will prevent them from having their varicose veins and spider veins treated. Interestingly, sclerotherapy and other treatments for vein disease are extremely safe for older patients—even those who suffer from other chronic diseases.

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How Does Being Overweight Affect Varicose Veins?

Medical professionals have been warning Americans for decades about the health risks associated with being overweight. While many are familiar with complications like heart disease and diabetes, most don’t know that obesity is also one of the biggest risk factors for developing Lower limb venous disease (LLVD), including varicose and spider veins. 

For some time, studies have shown a connection between obesity and LLVD, suggesting that increased adipose tissue within the leg is the contributing factor. However, more recently, the medical community is recognizing that both conditions are inflammatory in nature, which indicates there might be an additional connection, though more studies are needed. 

Working Against Gravity 

If you’re overweight, you’re probably inundated with advice from you doctor, family members, and the media that you should exercise to improve your health and lose weight. What you may NOT know is that exercise is also key to helping your leg veins do their job:  Return blood to your heart and lungs. The heart does some of the job, but it's the action of your foot and calf muscles that are actually part of an amazing pumping system that, along with one-way valves, works against gravity to move your blood up through your veins and back to the heart.  

The problem is, if you’re either starting to suffer from or already suffering from vein disease, your legs may be aching, making you less likely to want to exercise. Added to that is the problem of unsightly varicose and spider veins, which makes some sufferers uncomfortable wearing shorts or other exercise clothes in public. Unfortunately, this combination makes some even more sedentary and less likely to take part in healthy, outdoor activities. However, the problem is only going to get worse. 

Take Action Now 

What’s the solution? Get moving! Do a little bit every day and gradually build up. Simply walking prevents blood from essentially pooling in your legs, keeping your veins healthy and preventing worse conditions like blood clots and leg ulcers. 

Next, make an appointment today with Vein Clinics of Cleveland to get an evaluation. Taking care of the problem early helps prevent worsening of the condition. It also means your legs will be looking and feeling better in no time. 

Free consultation*

If you suspect you have a problem with varicose veins, call to schedule your free consultation with Dr. Kezele in Beachwood at 216.464.7333 or Willoughby at 440.946.9080Treatment is covered by most insurance plans.