Are you troubled with painful, itchy leg veins or simply fed up with their unsightly appearance?
At Kingsbridge Private Hospital our team of Vascular Surgeons are here to help.
Research shows that varicose veins affect about one third of people at some point in their life.
15-20% of adults in the UK have buldging varicose veins while 15-20% have hidden varicose veins. In most cases there is no obvious cause and the condition is rarely associated with any serious illness. There is thought to be a genetic tendency involving some degree of inherited weakness in the vein wall.
There are various factors which are often thought to be associated with varicose veins.
- Getting older - valves get weaker
- Being female - possibly because hormones can relax the vien walls
- Pregnancy - increases amount of blood in body, but decreases flow from the legs
- Being overweight - puts more pressureon the viens
- Long periods of time standing - veins have to work harder against gravity
- Sitting for long periods - leads to poor circulation
While these factors may make existing veins worse there is little evidence to suggest they are the cause.
What causes varicose veins?
There are two main types of veins in your legs:
- Superficial veins – these lie under your skin and include the long and short saphenous veins
- Deep veins
The saphenous veins are connected to the deep veins inside your legs by perforator veins. When blood doesn't flow properly from the superficial veins to your deep veins, pressure can build up and varicose veins can occur, this is due to valves in the leg or pelvic veins not working properly. Valves are designed to let blod flow one way, but if the valves are damaged or weakened then blood my not flow correctly and form pools of blood which stretch the veins. Veins can then buldge and become visible.
Can varicose veins go away without treatment?
The following activities can help ease the symptoms of varicose veins:
- Avoid standing or sitting still for long periods, move around every half hour or so
- Regular exercise can improve the circulation and help lose weight
- Raise the lower leg on pillows or a stool while resting
- Consider compression stockings after medical advice
Whilst these activities may help some patients and ease their condition, varicose veins will not go away without treatment and symptomatic varicose veins tend to get worse with time. Possible complications can include inflammation (thrombophlebitis), swelling, skin discolouration and bleeding.
It has been proven that earlier treatment of symptomatic varicose veins produces a better clinical outcome and cosmetic results.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
Symptoms of varicose veins can vary from person to person. Some people don't have any symptoms at all. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Aching or throbbing in the legs
- Itchy or restless legs
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Lumps or bulging veins
These symptoms may be caused by problems other than varicose veins. If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP for advice or book an appointment with a Private GP at Kingsbridge Private Hospital.
What complications can varicose veins cause?
Complications of varicose veins include the following:
- Thrombophlebitis – your superficial veins can become painful and red due to inflammation or a blockage in your veins
- Bleeding – your varicose veins can bleed if you cut or bump your leg
- Varicose eczema – your skin can become brown or purple which can often become permanent
- Venous ulcers – you can get ulcers when fluid leaks out of the varicose vein into the surrounding tissue
How are varicose veins diagnosed?
Varicose veins are easy to see in your leg. However, to work out the position and extent of any valve damage, your doctor at Kingsbridge Private Hospital Belfast may perform the following tests.
A Doppler test
This is an ultrasound technique that uses sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your leg. It will give your doctor information about the direction of blood flow in your vein and whether your valves are working properly.
An ultrasound scan (duplex)
This will allow your doctor to examine your deep veins in detail.
Do you need treatment?
In the past varicose veins were only treated if they were really causing problems. Since 2013 however new guidence from NICE says that all patients suffering from varicose veins and who are experiencing discomfort (itching, swelling, aching, heavyness) or visual signs (pigmenatation, eczema, leg ulcers) should be refered to a vascular
If your varicose veins don't cause you any discomfort, you may decide not to have any treatment. If your veins do cause discomfort or if you want treatment for cosmetic reasons then our surgeons at Kingsbridge Private Hospital offer the latest techniques in varicose veins treatment.
How are varicose veins treated?
If your varicose veins don't cause you any discomfort, you may decide not to have any treatment. However if your viens do cause you discomfort or if you want treatment for cosmetic reasons then our surgeons at Kingsbridge Private Hospital offer the latest techniques in varicose veins treatment.
Pathway 1 - Non-Surgical
There are a number of modern techniques used to treat varicose veins. This involves the closure of the veins using injected foam or applied heat energy through a small skin incision. These techniques have the advantage in that they can be carried out under local anaesthetic and rarely require overnight stay. Most patients will be able to walk immediately afterwards and can resume normal activities in 1 to 2 days.
These treatments include:
- VNUS Closure Procedure using radiofrequency energy
- Ultrasound guided Foam Sclerotherapy
- Microsclerotherapy for thread veins
Pathway 2 - Surgical
Larger veins often require surgical removal under general or spinal anaesthesia. Depending on the extent of your veins and your occupation, you may need to take between one to two weeks off work to recover.
In surgery, superficial veins that have become varicose veins are removed. The veins that are situated deep within your legs will take over the role of the damaged veins.
There are many types of operation depending on which veins need treated. Your surgeon at Kingsbridge Private Hospital will provide you with advice on which operation is best for you.
A common operation is ligation and stripping. In this operation, your surgeon will tie off the faulty vein to stop any blood flowing through it and then remove it. You may have phlebectomy with ligation and stripping to remove the smaller surface veins that lie under your skin. In this operation, your surgeon will use hooks to pull out your varicose veins through small cuts in your leg.
Although many people won't need any further treatment after surgery, it’s possible that new varicose veins can form.
Please note that all your options will be discussed in depth at your consultation with our experienced Vascular Consultants. We provide a full assessment service with clinical examination and ultrasound.
If you would like to book an appointment or require further information on the options available to you, please do not hesitate to contact our private patient booking team on the details above.