Varicose Veins - your guide


  • Types of varicose veins

  • Who do they affect and how?

  • Health risks

  • Recurrent varicose veins

  • The importance of ultrasound assessment to plan treatment



Types of varicose veins:


- Trunk varicose veins - these are the largest type and affect the main superficial veins - which are called the long and short saphenous veins. They become lumpy and are usually more than 4mm wide and even up to 2cm.


- Reticular Veins - these are smaller, often “blue” in colour and lie in the deeper layers of the skin. They are less than 4 mm wide. Many women get reticular veins behind the knees.


- Spider Veins (also known as thread veins, hyphenweb veins, telangiectasias). 
They lie in the surface of the skin and are less than 1mm wide.




Who do they affect and how?


Varicose veins affect up to a third of the population and are more common with age. Patients seek treatment for several common reasons including dissatisfaction with the leg appearance, symptoms such as pain, heaviness and itching, and concern about the risks of other vein problems such as DVT, varicose eczema and skin ulceration.

Health Risks of Varicose Veins

For most people varicose veins are harmless. The most common symptoms are aching, pain, itching, heaviness and swelling in the leg but often there are no symptoms.

However, as varicose veins become more extensive they can cause long-term damage to the skin, particularly around the ankle. With advancing age this can lead to venous ulceration. In addition, large varicose veins are associated with a slight increase in the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), and they are susceptible to phlebitis (painful inflammation).

Most patients also find their veins cosmetically unsightly, and this has an impact on quality of life.

Recurrent Varicose Veins

You may have undergone treatment in the past and are disappointed if new varicose veins form. Unfortunately this is quite common (around 20%). There are several causes for recurrent varicose veins. Often it is genetic - if you are prone to get varicose veins then you are more likely to get further veins in the future.


The importance of ultrasound 

Ultrasound scanning is the most accurate way of assessing your veins before planning treatment. It enables us to map the precise anatomy of your veins. A treatment strategy can then be formulated that is tailored to your individual circumstances.