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What are varicose veins?

Up to 25% of people will be affected by varicose veins at some point in their life

Varicose veins are due to weak or damaged vein walls and valves.

The veins in the legs that are near to the surface of the skin enlarge resulting in varicose veins, ranging from small dilated veins to big bulging or twisted lumps on the legs.

What are the symptoms?

What are the symptoms?

Sometimes varicose veins can limit your activities. Signs and symptoms of varicose veins include bulging, bluish veins; swelling; aching pain; a feeling of heaviness in the legs and feet, burning, throbbing itching; changes in skin colour and night time leg cramps.

Who is at risk

Who is at risk?

You may be at increased risk for varicose veins if you are older, sit or stand for long periods or, have an inactive lifestyle. Further risk factors are a family history of varicose veins, if you are overweight or obese, or have a family history of deep vein thrombosis, a type of venous thromboembolism.

Painful Veins?

Painful veins

Surprisingly, this often manifests from small veins, just as much as from large varicose veins.

Big varicose veins often cause some aching on standing, but do not usually result in severe symptoms.

Unfortunately, many doctors do not believe that thread veins can cause such severe pain. Patients find themselves being passed from doctor to doctor without any explanation as to the cause of the pain ever being given!  

For patients, who suffer from large varicose veins and thread veins, it is necessary to treat both types of veins in order to cure the pain coming from them.

Why do they Occur?

Why do they occur?


Philip Coleridge Smith - British Vein Institute

Environmental factors including diet, advanced age and hormonal changes may also result in the development of varicose veins.

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    A recent study showed that where both parents had varicose veins there was an 80% chance of their children developing varices. Varicose veins occur as often in men as in women. Many people know of other family members with the same problem. 

      Environmental factors also play a large part in the development of varicose veins and thread veins. Prolonged standing – especially for those empployed as nurses, sales assistants, flight attendants, waitresses and teachers - causes varicose veins. Diet may also be a factor. Our Western diet with its high content of fat and refined sugar and with low fibre content may contribute to the development of varicose veins.

    Varicose veins may also occur more often with advancing age, but may appear at any time of life. Small varices are sometimes seen in school children.

      -Hormonal changes at puberty, pregnancy and the menopause also result in the development of varicose and thread veins. As many as 70 – 80% of pregnant women develop varicose veins during the first trimester. Pregnancy causes an increase in hormone levels and blood volume which in turn causes veins to enlarge. Later in pregnancy, the enlarged uterus causes increased pressure on the veins in the pelvis. 60 – 70% of varicose veins due to pregnancy will disappear within a few weeks of delivery, but some varices will persist.

      -Little research has been done to investigate the role of the pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in the development of varicose veins. These probably have no influence on them. One thing that smoking does NOT cause is varicose veins.

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Philip Coleridge Smith - British Vein Institute

There is no way to prevent varicose veins. Improving your circulation and muscle tone may reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. Walking is beneficial for the veins and helps the blood return to the heart from the legs.

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    The measures you can be taken at home to treat the discomfort from varicose veins can also help prevent varicose veins. These include exercise, watching your weight, eating a high-fibre, low-salt diet, avoiding high heels and tight hosiery elevating your legs and changing your sitting or standing position regularly.


    In occupations that require extended periods of standing then we suggest that you take a few steps at regular intervals to help the circulation. No creams or drugs are available to prevent varicose veins. The earlier varicose veins and thread veins are treated the better the long term and cosmetic outcome.

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Complications from varicose veins are rare but can include painful ulcers, blood clots and bleeding.
Painful ulcers may form on the skin near varicose veins, particularly near the ankles. A discoloured discoloured spot on the skin usually begins, before an ulcer forms. See your doctor immediately if you suspect you've developed an ulcer.

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    Blood clots. Occasionally, blood clots may develop in the deep veins of the legs. In such cases, the affected leg may become painful and swells. Any persistent leg pain or swelling warrants medical attention because it may indicate a blood clot — a condition known medically as deep vein thrombosis.

    Bleeding. Occasionally, veins very close to the skin may burst. This usually causes only minor bleeding. Please note, any bleeding requires urgent medical attention.

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A vein specialist will do a physical examination and ask about symptoms, family history, activity levels and lifestyle. The consultant will then undertake a colour duplex ultrasound scan before explaining the examination results and advising you of the treatment options most suitable for you, clearly explaining all the benefits and the risks.

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    Our specialist will explain the treatment and cost plan and confirm all the findings and proposals in writing. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, a procedure to remove or close varicose veins, compression therapy, or medicines. The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms, improve appearance, and prevent complications such as leg, deep vein thrombosis, skin colour changes and bleeding.

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Investigation of Vein Problems

Investigation of vein problems

A physical examination by a vein specialist is useful in showing the extent of the varicose veins. It is not always clear where varicose veins come from, so ultrasound imaging is needed to find the source. This is important when varicose veins have recurred after a previous operation. Even experienced vascular surgeons find it difficult to decide exactly where the problem lies, without the use of special tests.

Colour duplex ultrasound imaging is now understood to be the gold standard for investigating varicose veins. It is a painless test and gives a detailed map, of exactly where the veins come from and go to. Ultrasonography shows the source of the varicose veins and venous ulcers. Ultrasound imaging can also identify the presence of deep vein thrombosis.  

This test makes it easy to get pictures of leaky valves. The same type of ultrasound machine is used when scanning during pregnancy. The investigation should always be performed before varicose veins are treated by surgery or more modern methods.

Ultrasound imaging is used to mark the exact position of the veins on the leg, before treatment commences. This makes sure that all varicose veins are destroyed during the treatment. This investigation is used to find the faulty veins that will be treated by modern vein treatments, including radiofrequency ablation and ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy. This test is referred to as a 'non-invasive investigation, meaning that no needles, injections or pain is involved!

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0800 7836106

24-28 The Broadway
Amersham, Buckinghamshire
0800 7836106
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The Bridge Clinic
Maidenhead, Berkshire
0800 7836106
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62 Wimpole Street
0800 7836106
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Suites 509-510
Q House, 76 Furze Road
Sandyford, Dublin 18
Dublin 01-2937 839
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