7 things you thought you knew about varicose veins but got wrong

Male with varicose veins in need of diagnosis and treatment

Both men and women are just as likely to develop varicose veins. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We deep dive into the medical world to discover if what we’ve heard about varicose veins is true.

Helping us to separate fact from fiction is Michael Gaunt, a leading vascular surgeon, with clinics in Harley Street, Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds. Below, he shares seven common misconceptions that people have about varicose veins.

1. Varicose veins only affect the elderly

“Many patients believe the condition only affects people over 50,” Michael explains. “However, the reality is you can develop varicose veins at any age – I’ve treated patients as young as nine.”

2. Men are not at risk of developing the condition

Another misbelief is that only women suffer from the problem.

“Both men and women are just as likely to develop varicose veins as they are most often caused by genetic factors,” Michael shares. “It’s a more common condition than many realise, affecting around one in five people.”

Consultant vascular surgeon, Michael Gaunt, at the BMI St Edmunds Hospital at Bury St Edmunds.

Michael Gaunt is a leading vascular surgeon with clinics in Harley Street, Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

3. Pregnancy causes varicose veins

“People often mistake pregnancy as a cause of the condition, but it only aggravates it,” Michael adds.

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Varicose veins are often already present, though perhaps not as noticeably, before pregnancy. When pregnant they will often worsen, and the same with each subsequent pregnancy.

“Usually, people pass off other symptoms of varicose veins such as fatigue and achiness as being caused by stress,” Michael shares. “It’s only after receiving treatment that these symptoms disappear.”

4. Excessive standing leads to venous problems

“Those with a genetic disposition towards the condition that spend a lot of time at work standing are more likely to get swollen veins, but the job is not the cause,” Michael says.

There are lifestyle changes you can make to ease symptoms and pain, such as wearing compression stockings or introducing low impact exercises such as walking and biking.

5. Varicose veins are only a cosmetic issue

“While it’s true that varicose veins may not be a medical emergency, they can indicate an underlying condition, which is why it’s important to seek expert diagnosis and treatment,” Michael explains.

Varicose veins ultrasound scan conducted by Michael Gaunt, a vascular surgeon in Bury St Edmunds

Michael can conduct a Duplex ultrasound scan to work out what you have and recommend the best course of treatment. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Varicose veins can lead to venous ulcerations and other infections. They can also increase your risk of developing DVT (deep vein thrombosis), which can cause a pulmonary embolism.

“Even if it's only a cosmetic problem, this can still affect your confidence and self-esteem. People will often avoid wearing their favourite clothes or going swimming to conceal the visible veins,” Michael says.

Seeking medical treatment can remove them, helping you to lead the life you want, without hesitation or embarrassment.

6. Thread veins and varicose veins are the same thing

Thread veins and varicose veins are both caused by blood not moving through the veins properly and are related. However, they are separate conditions that can occur together.

“The fundamental difference between the two is their appearance,” Michael explains. “Thread veins are small, appear close to the surface of the skin and are often blue, purple or red.

“Varicose veins are much easier to self-diagnose as they are large, bumpy, blue and most commonly occur in the legs.”

By attending one of Michael’s clinics, you can get an ultrasound for an accurate diagnosis and a recommendation of the best treatment for both.

7. Treatment is invasive and painful

Some may be put off from seeking treatment, believing it will be painful and have a long recovery period.

“Vein stripping is no longer the only remedy available,” Michael says. “Today, there are more simple procedures that are quick, non-invasive and virtually pain-free.”

Michael specialises in minimally-invasive treatments for venous conditions. This includes Endovenous laser and ClariVein treatment. Both can be performed under local or general anaesthetic depending on patient preference, cause little pain and have a short recovery time. The treatments are quick and straightforward and most patients spend less than five hours in hospital.

“I’m experienced in helping patients with a range of venous and arterial problems and have the facilities to provide the dedicated attention they need for an accurate diagnosis,” Michael says. “This enables me to recommend a treatment plan tailored to each individual, for the best results.”

Often such conditions can be considered a low priority on the NHS, especially following Covid-19, which can mean lengthy delays and not as much time to dedicate to the patient.

“I see every patient myself, and will be with them from the very first consultation to checking in with them after the procedure,” Michael says. “This way I can ensure they receive top-quality care and advice that will enable them to return to making the most of every day.”

For more information, visit michaelgaunt.com, email megsecretaries@michaelgaunt.com or call 01223 305858.