Varicose veins

Varicose veins are bulging and enlarged veins which most often appear on the legs. They're usually a dark blue colour, and can appear twisted too.

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The role of veins is to carry blood back from the leg to the heart. Some lie just beneath the skin (superficial veins) and some lie deep in the leg beneath the muscles (deep veins). It is in the superficial veins that varicose veins arise.​ Approximately one third of the UK population are likely to develop varicose veins.

The problem may arise at any time of life, but is more common with increasing age. Women are more likely to be affected by varicose veins than men . It is thought this may be due to the effect of female hormones that relax the vein walls. Although varicose veins are not dangerous, they are unsightly, can be painful and may cause other unpleasant symptoms. Because of this many people want them removed.

In addition to their distinctive appearance, varicose veins may cause a range of symptoms, these may include:

  • aching or heaviness in your legs
  • itchy or burning feeling in the skin over the veins
  • restless legs
  • swollen feet and ankles – especially after standing for a long time
  • cramps in your legs – usually at night
  • lumps or bulging veins
  • changes in the skin colour, and skin ulcers

Large varicose veins don’t always cause more symptoms than smaller ones.

Varicose veins are veins beneath the skin of the leg that become swollen and enlarged because the delicate valves in them stop working. This means that blood flows the wrong way – down the leg, instead of upwards. This produces a head of pressure which makes the veins bulge and which can lead to symptoms and sometimes other more serious problems.

Prolonged standing, obesity, pregnancy and hormonal medications such as the pill or HRT can exacerbate the condition.

In order to determine the correct treatment it is essential that patients have an accurate venous duplex scan, as not doing this can result in the wrong operation being performed and the veins recurring at an early stage. A painless and non-invasive ultrasound is used to detect varicose veins and gives the surgeons the information they need to decide how to best treat your condition.

Instead of the old ‘high tie and strip’ method which was an invasive procedure and required two surgical incisions and  a general anaesthetic, varicose veins can now can be treated entirely under local anaesthetic with no surgical incisions using a technique called endovenous laser treatment (EVLT). EVLT is minimally invasive and has now become the treatment of choice for many leading specialist varicose vein surgeons. Also, statistics show that the risk of the condition reoccurring is reduced from 30% to around 5% using EVLT.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound is an imaging procedure used to examine a wide range of parts of your body. 

EVLT - Endovenous Laser Treatment

Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT) is a minimally invasive procedure used to remove varicose veins

Sclerotherapy - injection into varicose veins

Sclerotherapy is a treatment for varicose veins and spider veins which involves injecting a special foam or fluid into the affected veins, causing them to collapse and, over time, to turn into scar tissue that fades from view.

What next?

If you are suffering with a suspected condition, you should seek the advice of your doctor who will be able to refer you to Benenden Hospital for diagnosis and treatment.

There are four ways to access treatment at Benenden Hospital which include self-funding, using private medical insurance or your Benenden membership, or through the NHS e-Referral scheme.