What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are caused by blood collecting in superficial veins which lie just beneath the skin, often in the legs. These veins have a series of valves which help blood back towards the heart, but in some cases the valves become weakened or damaged and no longer close properly.
When this occurs, blood is able to flow backwards; collecting in the vein. This becomes visible on the surface of the skin as a varicose vein. A varicose vein often appears engorged or twisted, and can be a blue or dark purple colour on the skin. Varicose veins do not tend to get better without treatment, and usually get worse with time.
What does varicose vein treatment involve?
There are different options available for the treatment of varicose veins, both surgical and non-surgical. The surgical procedure is often considered the most effective varicose vein treatment; it involves removing the vein while under a general anaesthetic.
The non-surgical types of procedure include either injecting foam into the vein, which is guided by ultrasound, or heating up the vein to seal it from within by passing a probe into the vein.
What are some common treatments for varicose veins?
- Surgical removal
A technique named ‘ligation and stripping’ is one of the more commonly performed methods used to remove varicose veins. This involves tying off and removing the affected vein in the leg. The ligation and stripping procedure is usually done under a general anaesthetic as a day case, however an overnight stay may be required if you are having operations on both legs.
- Ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy
Ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy is a relatively new non-surgical option for treating varicose veins. This procedure is usually done under a local anaesthetic which numbs the affected area during the treatment. The aim is to destroy the vein; this is done by mapping the area with an ultrasound machine, and then injecting a foam preparation into a fine tube inserted in the vein. Usually only one leg is treated per appointment, and more than one treatment is often required.
- Endovenous Laser Treatment (ELT and EVLT™)
Endovenous laser treatment (ELT or EVLT™) is another non-surgical option for the varicose vein treatment It is usually done under local anaesthetic as a day case, without the need for an overnight stay. The procedure involves passing a probe into a vein to seal it from within.
ClariVein® is a new minimally-invasive technique for treating varicose veins performed using local anaesthetic. The procedure involves inserting a rotating catheter into the vein and releasing a drug to seal it from within. After the procedure a compression stocking will be applied to the leg and should be worn for one week. Patients can usually go home 30 minutes after the procedure and can normally resume normal activities the same day, but it is advisable to wait 24 hours before driving.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
The symptoms of varicose veins differ between individuals but can include:
- Swelling of the ankles
- Blue or purple discolorations under the skin
- Aching or discomfort in the legs
- Itchiness of the legs
- Little or no symptoms at all
Varicose vein treatment aftercare
The amount of time needed for recovery is dependent on the type of treatment undertaken. Generally, the legs treated will be bandaged to have time to heal, and could be placed in an elasticated treatment stocking. With foam sclerotherapy, ClariVein® and ELT/EVLT™, patients are recommended to continue their usual activities and to stay active after their treatments. Your consultant will provide you with more advice about varicose vein treatment aftercare, depending on the type of treatment you have.
Are varicose vein treatments available on the NHS?
Varicose vein treatment is usually only available on the NHS if there are medical complaints associated with the varicose veins. This includes discomfort and itch, or if the leg is particularly swollen. The NHS does not usually provide treatments for cosmetic reasons, so for this reason many people opt for private treatment.
Why should I consider having varicose vein treatments at a Spire hospital?
Whether you have medical insurance or are paying for your treatment yourself, with Spire Healthcare you will be seen quickly by the consultant-grade surgeon of your choice at a time that suits you. You will be treated in a premium private hospital with some of the UK's highest standards of cleanliness and infection control.
To find out more about having your varicose vein treatment privately or to get a guide price, simply