Suffering from varicose veins or thread veins?

16 August 2018

Varicose veins are a common problem affecting at least 20% of the UK’s adult population. They occur when small valves inside the veins stop functioning correctly.

Rather than blood flowing effortlessly back towards the heart, the blood stagnates within the veins causing aching, tiredness and discomfort.

There are many myths surrounding thread veins and varicose veins. Such as you can get them from crossing your legs for long periods of time, however this is not true according to Mr Bill Neary a consultant vascular surgeon at Spire Bristol Hospital. We spoke to Mr Neary in more depth around this subject.

“You don’t get varicose veins from crossing your legs for long periods but they are more common in occupations where you are on your feet for long periods of time – retail staff and teachers do suffer more than most!” explains Mr Neary

What are the symptoms and signs to look out for?

At first, problem veins may not be visible but symptoms occur. Sometimes patches of blue thread veins may be the earliest signs of an underlying problem. Eventually, the abnormal veins may become swollen, enlarged and varicose. This condition can be embarrassing and painful.

Varicose veins are usually blue or dark purple in colour and may also be lumpy or twisted in appearance.

While any vein can be affected, varicose veins most commonly develop in the legs and feet – predominantly because standing and walking can put pressure on the veins in the lower body.

Are varicose veins harmful to my health or can they be ignored?

In the developing stages, varicose veins and thread (broken) veins may be primarily a cosmetic problem. However, if ignored, the condition can deteriorate and a variety of complications can occur such as leg swelling, pigmentation of the skin around the ankles and ulcers.

Occasionally, veins can burst causing bleeding, or the blood within the veins can clot leading to the painful condition of phlebitis.

Not all visible veins in the legs are varicose veins. Small veins underneath the skin, known as thread veins, spider veins or reticular veins, may become prominent due to a variety of different reasons.

Are thread veins something I should be concerned about?

They can rarely cause local symptoms of aching and throbbing but there most common concern to people is being unsightly. 

However, sometimes thread veins are an indication of underlying varicose veins which may not be visible on examination.

Treatment of the thread veins will not be successful unless the underlying problem - for example the varicose veins - has been corrected first. Therefore, a thorough venous assessment is necessary before initiating any local treatment for thread veins.

Are women or men more likely to get these vascular problems?

It can affect men just as much as it can affect women.  Men tend to cover their legs up more and have more hair, so the problem may be hidden away and ignored, with some men only seeking treatment when their veins become swollen and complications start to occur.

Can I avoid having surgery?

Fortunately, modern, minimally invasive treatments can often be performed under local anaesthetic as a walk-in, walk-out procedure. This leaves the patient with minimal postoperative pain with practically immediate return to normal activity.

Are you interested in learning more about varicose veins or thread veins, the causes, symptoms and the available treatment options?

Spire Bristol Hospital is inviting you to attend a free patient information evening on Thursday 23rd August. The evening will allow you the chance to listen to a talk from one of their consultant specialists and ask any questions, which you may have.

To book your place please contact Spire Bristol Hospital on 0117 980 4080 or email

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