What are the symptoms and causes of varicose veins?

5th February 2021 By Phoenix Hospital Group

Varicose veins are a common problem, affecting around 23% of adults. They can painful and unsightly, but varicose vein surgery is a safe and simple procedure with excellent results.


What Causes Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are the result of poor venous return; the blood vessels that return blood from the rest of the body to the heart and lungs have tiny valves to ensure that the blood flows smoothly in one direction. These valves can become leaky, causing blood to pool within the veins, creating distended, bulging areas within the veins. This is naturally more common in the legs due to the increased pressure from standing and walking.

What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?

For many people, varicose veins don’t cause any discomfort and are only a cosmetic problem. For others, however, varicose veins are associated with discomfort ranging from mild to severe.

Symptoms include:

  • Visible veins that appear thickened, lumpy and twisted and may be blue or purple in colour.
  • Pain around the area of visible varicose veins.
  • Cramping, throbbing, and burning sensations in the same area as the veins.
  • Pain which is worse after standing for a long time.


Can Varicose Veins be Prevented?

Some people are more likely to get varicose veins than others, and this gives us some information about the risk factors for developing varicose veins. Some of the risk factors cannot be altered; they are more common as we age, more common in women than men, and more common in women who have had multiple pregnancies.

There are, however, some risk factors for varicose veins that we may be able to reduce through changes in our lifestyles. People who are inactive and overweight are more likely to develop varicose veins and other circulatory problems, so an active healthy lifestyle and diet can help reduce our risk of varicose veins, as well as many other health problems and serious diseases. People who have to stand for extended periods of time on a long-term basis are also more likely to have varicose veins; varicose veins have a strong classical association with those working as healthcare workers or bar staff.

How do we Treat Varicose Veins?

Simple treatments for varicose veins may help to reduce the discomfort and appearance of minor varicose veins.

  • Lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet and exercise plan can stop varicose veins from getting worse.
  • Compression stockings can help support good venous return and so reduce the appearance and sensation of varicose veins.
  • Some medications can help, such as simple painkillers for uncomfortable varicose veins, or medications to support healthy circulation.
  • Surgery

Problematic varicose veins may be treated with simple medical procedures. Sclerotherapy is a procedure where medication is injected into the blood vessels to shrink them permanently. Ablation is another treatment to close off varicose veins, this time by finely targeted heat therapy.

Larger varicose veins may require a more invasive, but still simple and safe surgical procedure to remove parts of the veins.

To book an appointment with a varicose vein specialist call us on 0207 079 2100 or email [email protected].