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Varicose vein treatment

While varicose veins are not usually a serious medical condition, it’s a common misconception that they are purely a cosmetic issue.

The visual symptoms of varicose veins may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as heavy or restless legs, pain and itching. If the blood flow in your leg is reduced, it can also cause other conditions, such as eczema.

If you have varicose veins and you would like to talk to a specialist about the treatment options available, book an appointment with one of our vascular consultants.

What are the symptoms of varicose veins?

Varicose veins are large, bulging veins that appear in the legs, usually on the calves or thighs. They are raised from the skin and are often blue in colour. They can be as thin as string or much larger.

In addition to the visible veins, you may also experience swollen ankles and feet, heavy legs or restless legs, particularly towards the end of the day.

What causes varicose veins?

Varicose veins are usually caused by issues with the valves in the veins. These valves enable blood to flow towards the heart, but when they weaken, they can allow blood to pool in the veins, which causes them to swell.

There are additional risk factors for varicose veins, which include being overweight or obese, getting older, being female, being inactive and smoking. Varicose veins may even be hereditary. You can also be at an increased risk if you are pregnant, recovering from an injury or taking oral contraceptives.

Are varicose veins a medical issue?

Varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort, but don’t usually cause any serious medical issues. However, if the varicose veins are severe, there is a risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is when a blood clot forms in the deep veins. The symptoms of DVT include swelling, pain and redness in the leg.

It’s important to get these symptoms investigated, as blood clots can move to other areas of the body, which is then an emergency.

What are the treatment options for varicose veins?

The good news is that there are now many treatment options for patients with varicose veins. These include:

Endothermal ablation (radiofrequency)

The vast majority of our patients will have this form of treatment. It involves using either radiofrequency waves or lasers to heat the vein and cauterise it. Endothermal ablation is usually a day case procedure and can performed under local anaesthetic, although larger veins may require a general anaesthetic.


This is a technique that involves injecting a special foam into the problem vein to make it fade. This technique is often used for thread veins (spider veins), which are much smaller than varicose veins and are found just below the surface of the skin. It usually takes a few weeks for the veins to reduce in appearance.

Ligation and stripping

This is the surgical method for removing varicose veins, during which the vein is tied and removed. It is usually offered to patients for whom the less invasive methods are unsuitable. This surgery requires a general anaesthetic and typically takes longer to recover from than endothermal ablation.

Your varicose vein removal surgery questions answered

Your consultant will discuss your symptoms and medical history with you. They will want to know if there are any situations that make your symptoms worse.

They will also perform a physical examination so that they can get a better understanding of any discomfort you are experiencing. They may ask you to stand so that they can see if there is any swelling in your legs. Your consultant may also want you to have an ultrasound scan so that they can get a clear picture of your veins and any issues with blood flow.

Some patients find that compression stockings can help with varicose veins. These are tight stockings that you wear to improve the circulation in your legs. However, they aren’t suitable for everyone.

You might also wish to try exercising more regularly, elevating your legs and avoiding standing for extended periods of time.

The vast majority of our patients are treated using endothermal ablation. This involves inserting a wire into the vein and cauterising it using heat. This procedure takes around 30 minutes to complete and is possible to do under a local anaesthetic.

If endothermal ablation isn’t suitable, you may need surgery to remove your varicose veins. The surgeon will use a technique called ligation and stripping, in which they ligate (tie) the vein and strip (remove) it. Two incisions will be made in your leg, one at the top of the vein and one at the bottom. The vein is then tied through the first incision and pulled through the second incision. This procedure is performed under general anaesthetic.

The vast majority of our patients will have their varicose veins treated using endothermal ablation. This means we can usually treat under a local anaesthetic and patients can be in and out of hospital on the same day, and back to normal life within a day or two.

The risks associated with endothermal ablation can include puncturing the vein, blood clots, inflammation in the leg, pulmonary embolism, infection, burning of the skin and bruising (hematoma).

For ligation and stripping, surgery can cause bruising, bleeding and pain. Other risks can include those associated with general anaesthetic, as well as nerve damage or DVT (although serious complications are rare).

Your consultant will have a detailed understanding of your medical history and will outline any risks with you. For example, endothermal ablation may not be suitable for patients with cardiovascular issues.

You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.

We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.

Talk to our experts about your varicose veins

No one should have to put up with pain or discomfort. Booking an appointment at Sulis Hospital General Surgery Unit means getting seen by an experienced vascular specialist, with fast access to diagnostics and treatment.

If you do need surgery, you will be welcomed into a clean, modern hospital that invests in the latest treatments, diagnostic technologies and ways of working. We deliver an exceptional standard of care, which is why patients travel from all over the UK to have their surgery with us.

Treatment Overview

Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Covered by health insurance? Yes

  • Can I pay privately? Yes

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