Help! I have varicose veins. What are my treatment options?

Varicose veins affect about a third of the UK population, mainly women. The condition results from enlarged veins in the legs, forcing the blood to flow in reverse. In some patients the symptoms are hardly noticeable but in others the level of discomfort can be severe with itchiness, cramps, continual throbbing and heaviness in the legs. Eventually the condition can deteriorate to ulcers, resulting in a significant effect on the quality of life. Most people end up wearing compression stockings at some point during treatment.

What are my treatment options for varicose veins?

The specialists at Cornwall Vein Clinic stay abreast of the latest techniques and technologies and Mr Ken Woodburn will be demonstrating his techniques for the treatment of varicose veins at the Venous Workshop held during the 38th Charing Cross Symposium, the longest running and largest symposium in Europe, dedicated to exploring vascular and endovascular challenges.

Traditionally, the preferred option was surgery although this is increasingly becoming a last resort as other, less invasive and modern techniques have been developed to deal with the condition. Surgery requires a general anaesthetic and typically results in up to three weeks away from work along with pain and bruising.

  1. Endothermal ablation should be offered as a first course of action. Unlike surgery, this can be carried out under a local anaesthetic and typically has mild side effects such as bruising and transient pins and needles. A small incision will be made just above or below the knee to insert a catheter to heat up the vein to seal it shut but patients can expect to return to work within 24 hours.
  2. Endovenous laser treatment may also be advised as an initial treatment option. The procedure is similar but may result in more tightness and bruising, with the possibility of short-term nerve damage. Both techniques may still require you to wear compression stockings.
  3. Ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy may be advised when endothermal ablation treatment is unsuitable. This procedure requires an injection of a foam compound into the affected veins to seal them shut. Whilst this is can be carried out under a local anaesthetic and you should expect to be back to work in less than 24 hours (with 84 out of 100 cases being successful) sclerotherapy can cause headaches, back pain, temporary vision problems and possibly blood clots in other veins.

However, as NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, details in their guidelines on the preferred order of varicose vein treatments, the individual needs and preferences of the patient should always be taken into account. For a comprehensive assessment of your individual requirements, please call 01872 226 100 to book a consultation at the Cornwall Vein Clinic.

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