Varicose Veins

13 May 2014

In the UK one in four adults get varicose veins, however worryingly the majority either ignore their symptoms or encounter difficulties accessing treatment due to stringent NHS suitability criteria. Consultant vascular and endovascular surgeon Mr Patrick Chong explains the symptoms and best treatment options.

What are varicose veins?

Veins return blood to the heart using precise ‘one-way’ valves working within the veins. When vein valves stop working or become damaged, blood can flow backwards and collect in the vein, which most commonly occurs in the legs.

This can cause veins to become enlarged or swollen, usually appearing dark purple or blue and lumpy. Risk of varicose veins increases during pregnancy, when overweight and in old age.

What are the symptoms?

Other than their appearance symptoms include achiness and pain in the affected vein, varicose eczema, pigmentation around the ankles and more advanced venous skin changes such as stubborn heel and leg ulcers.

New techniques

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence published new guidelines last summer recommending less invasive methods such as Endovenous Laser and Radiofrequency Ablation techniques which use heat energy to permanently seal varicose veins. Both methods involve the insertion of a needle and sheath into the affected vein using ultrasound guidance for accuracy. Then laser or radiofrequency energy is used to seal the damaged vein. These techniques take only 45–90 minutes using local anaesthetic. Patients can return to work two to three days later.

Spire Clare Park Vein Care specialises in "walk in, walk out" day case varicose vein treatments, with a number of minimally invasive options with experienced consultant vascular surgeons. For more information call 01252 895 490.

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