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What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins, including thread veins, are very common. They affect 20 - 30% of the population.

Valves in normal veins help blood return up the leg towards the heart.

In varicose veins these valves don't work properly so blood flows backwards, down the leg. This makes the veins larger and more visible - i.e. varicose.

Spider (thread) veins are miniature dilated veins at the skin surface.

What are the health risks of varicose veins?

Most of the time, varicose veins do not cause serious health problems.

Many people find find them unsightly which can impact quality of life and affect confidence, choice of clothing, etc.


They can also cause symptoms and other issues including pain, aching and swelling of the legs. Sometimes they can become tender and inflamed  resulting in a condition known as phlebitis. They can also cause spider (thread) veins to appear.

In more severe cases they can also cause eczema of the skin, skin pigmentation, discolouration, and ulcer formation as well as bleeding and can increase the risk off deep vein thrombosis (DVT). 

Vein Types

Varicose Veins

Usually 4mm in diameter or larger.


Most arise either from the long or short saphenous veins.

Reticular Veins

Usually 1mm - 3mm in diameter.


Often seen behind the knee but can be anywhere in the legs.

Spider Veins

Up to 1mm in diameter.

At the skin surface anywhere in the leg, but often around the thighs.


Assessment of varicose veins

The best way to assess varicose veins is through ultrasound. 

Ultrasound is carried out at the initial consultation to determine the most appropriate treatment options.

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