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Varicose Veins

  • Gym BikeVaricose veins are very common and affect up to one third of the adult population and increase with age. 
  • Many factors may contribute to causing varicose veins, including age, gender, family history, multiple pregnancies, obesity and professions which involve a lot of standing.
  • Varicose veins develop normally when there is a failure of the valves in the superficial veins of the leg.  When this happens, blood tends to travel down, instead of up, the superficial leg veins leading to superficial venous incompetence and reflux of blood.  As a consequence, the pressure of blood in the veins is much higher than it should be and this in turn causes stretching of the wall of the vein.  In time this leads to large twisted, lumpy, blue-green, varicose veins.
  • Most people seek treatment for varicose veins for two main reasons:
  1. Dissatisfaction with the appearance of the leg
  2. Symptoms caused by their varicose veins such as aching pains, heaviness of the legs and itching. 
  • More severe cases of varicose veins can lead to unpleasant complications.  The skin, particularly around the ankle, can develop brown staining, varicose eczema and, very rarely, ulceration.  The varicose veins themselves can become hard, painful and inflamed (phlebitis) and very rarely large varicose veins can lead to bleeding problems.

Types of Varicose Veins

There are three main types of varicose veins and it is not unusual for all three to be present in the same patient.
  • Trunk Varicose Veins: these are formed from the main superficial veins and their largest branches.  They lie under the skin, appear as twisted blue-green bulges and are usually more than 4mm across.
  • Reticular Veins: these are formed from smaller branches, lie inside the deeper layers of the skin, are less lumpy and are usually less than 4mm across.
  • Thread Veins (otherwise called spider veins or telangectasia): these are formed by the very smallest branches, lie in the upper layers of the skin and are usually less than 1mm across.