By Mr Constantinos Kyriakides, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at The Private Clinic of Harley Street
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are swollen and enlarged veins which have become widened, lumpy and twisted. They are usually blue or dark purple in colour and typically occur under the skin of the legs. The condition is common and is said to affect roughly one in four people.
What are the causes of varicose veins?
Varicose veins occur when the valves in our legs stop working properly and as a result, when we stand up the blood in our legs will fall down the veins, rather than flowing upwards towards the heart. Genetics are the biggest contributing factor to the development of varicose veins, so if your parents or grandparents suffered from varicose veins, there is a far greater chance that you will also.
How does being overweight exacerbate the problem?
Obesity and weight gain can increase your chances of developing varicose veins. Excessive weight gain puts extra pressure on the veins, causing them to lose their elasticity and eventually to widen. This separates the valves so when they close to prevent a backflow of blood, they no longer meet. This results in the blood flowing backwards and causes pooling in the veins.
Does sitting cross-legged make varicose veins worse?
Despite what many people think, sitting for long periods does not cause varicose veins, nor does crossing the legs regularly. Similarly, varicose veins are not the result of prolonged standing and existing veins will not worsen if you opt to stand for lengthy periods.
Do varicose veins increase the chance of developing blood clots?
Some varicose veins are more likely to cause blood clots and they are the veins that are associated with the main trunks of the body, such as the saphenous systems. If the vein is tender or red, or if there is swelling of the vein then I would advise you to go and get this checked out by a specialist.
Having said that, the risk of DVT is still low in people who have varicose veins. The risk of developing DVT increases with the presence of additional risk factors including, having previously suffered DVT or a family history of DVT, obesity, smoking, taking certain medications such as the oral contraceptive pill and not taking regular exercise.
What treatments are available for varicose veins?
Treatments for varicose veins have come a long way since the days of invasive vein removal procedures, it is now common to treat varicose with a minimally-invasive method called Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA). This treatment is delivered under local anaesthetic and enables the patient to leave the clinic on the same day as their treatment, without the need to undergo any form of hospital stay.
For more information or to book a consultation with Mr Constantinos Kyriakides, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at The Private Clinic of Harley Street, visit www.theprivateclinic.co.uk