Vascular Science Frequently asked Questions
1. What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged (dilated) sections of veins which are located just under the surface of the skin - usually on the leg. They are often easy to see, as they look thick and knobbly. They may be less obvious if you are overweight, as they are hidden by fatty tissue under the skin.
Other, smaller types of veins which can be noticeable are:
• Reticular veins: Closely grouped network of small veins.
• Thread veins, or spider veins: These look like a kind of star burst pattern on an area of the leg. They are not true varicose
2. What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
Most people with varicose veins donâ€™t suffer from any symptoms, though its appearance may be of concern to some people. However, larger varicose veins can ache, feel heavy or itch.
3. Are there any complications of varicose veins?
Varicose veins may cause complications like:
• Inflammation of the vein (thrombophlebitis).
• Swelling of the foot or lower leg.
• Skin changes over prominent veins which include discolouration, varicose eczema, skin ulcers, or lipodermatosclerosis
(hardening of the fat layer under the skin, causing areas of thickened, red skin).
• Occasionally, varicose veins may bleed.
4. Do I need treatment or a referral for varicose veins?
Mostly treatment may not be required. However, you may want to have treatment if:
• You develop complications
: In few cases leg swelling or skin changes develop over prominent veins. In such cases
treatment is usually advised to prevent a skin ulcer from developing. Also, if you have a varicose vein which bleeds then
urgent treatment is necessary.
• It gets itch or uncomfortable
• Cosmetic reasons
5. Which tests might I have?
If varicose veins become problematic you will be referred to a specialist who will perform a type of ultrasound scan called a Doppler or a duplex scan, in order to how the blood is flowing in the veins. This ultrasound shows if any of the valves are damaged (which is useful to know when planning treatment). Occasionally, other tests may be needed if the case is more complex.
6. What are the treatment options for varicose veins?
There are several different options. Traditional operations such as vein stripping have largely been replaced by procedures which involve heat, lasers or the injection of chemicals into the vein.
• Radio frequency ablation and endovenous laser ablation
. These involve passing a probe into one of the longer
varicose veins, using ultrasound to guide the position. The laser or radiofrequency energy makes the vein heat up & seal it.
• Foam sclerotherapy.
This technique is used if heat or lasers do not work. It uses a chemical mixed with air to make foam. The foam is injected into the veins, pushing the blood away and making the veins go into spasm. After treatment,
compression stockings are needed and the veins will be hard and swollen for a while before they shrink down. In this case
more than one treatment may be needed.
. Traditional surgery is only recommended as a last resource if heat, lasers or foam treatment does not work.