Varicose veins - FAQs

23 March 2018

At Spire Cardiff Hospital we welcomed a new Vascular Consultant, Mr David Lewis.

Mr Lewis has a great deal of experience in both open and endovascular procedures and submits all his data to The National Vascular Registry. With a great deal of experience in both open and endovascular procedures, Mr Lewis is keen participant in the education and training of others. He has been a faculty member on many vascular surgical training courses in the UK, Europe and Australasia. Mr Lewis sat on The Advisory Board of The Academy of Surgical Educators at The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and currently sits on the Vascular Specialty Advisory Committee to The Joint Committee on Surgical Training.

We have asked Mr Lewis to share with us some of the frequently asked questions he receives around his practice and varicose veins.


1. What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are superficial veins of the legs, which are swollen, tortuous and visible. They are very common. Arteries take blood down the legs and veins bring blood back up the legs, to the heart. There are two main systems of veins in the legs - the deep veins which carry most of the blood back up the legs to the heart, and the superficial veins, which can form varicose veins. Veins in the legs contain valves, which, under normal circumstances only allow the blood to flow in one direction. Failure of the valves increases the pressure in the veins when standing. This excess pressure leads to dilation of the veins and the appearance of varicose veins.


2. What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins can run in families. Up to 50% of women may develop varicose veins during their lifetime but varicose veins are common in men as well.


3. What symptoms do varicose veins cause?

Other than cosmetic concerns, the commonest symptoms from varicose veins are aching, discomfort, and heaviness of the legs. These symptoms are usually worse at the end of the day. In a few people the high pressure in the veins causes damage to the skin near the ankle, which can appear like brown staining of the skin or eczema (flaky, itchy skin). Ulceration of the leg may occur if these skin changes are allowed to progress, or if the skin is injured. Other problems that varicose veins can cause are phlebitis and bleeding. Phlebitis, or thrombophlebitis, means inflammation of the veins. The affected veins become hard and tender. This is not the same as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and is not usually dangerous. The risk of bleeding as a result of injury to varicose veins worries many people, but this is very rare.


4. What tests can be used to investigate varicose veins?

Most varicose veins originate from faulty valves at groin level or, less commonly, behind the knee. A detailed scan, called a duplex ultrasound scan, is required if treatment is planned. The scan can detect leaking valves and map out the anatomy of the problem veins.


5. Why do I need treatment for my varicose veins?

If you have varicose veins there are a number of reasons why you may decide to have intervention. Mr Lewis will discuss all the treatment options with you before you decide which treatment is best for you. The aim of varicose vein interventions is to reduce the pressure in the superficial veins. This will hopefully help relieve any symptoms caused by the varicose veins. Support stockings and daily moisturiser can further protect the skin.


You can find more FAQs regarding varicose veins on Mr Lewis’ LinkedIn profile here:

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