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What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are dilated (enlarged) sections of veins. There are three types, depending on the size of the vein affected.
Trunk: these are the common, thick varicose veins which you can normally easily see.
Reticular: these are a closely grouped network of small, red coloured veins.
Telangiectasia: these are lots of tiny thread veins which can enlarge in a pattern on an area of the leg.
Who develops Varicose Veins?
Approximately 3 in 10 adults develop the ‘trunk’ type of varicose veins at some time in their life. The thinner varicose veins although more common, may not be as obvious as the larger veins.
There are other factors which increase the chance of varicose veins developing, although they occur mostly for no apparent reason.
Age: varicose veins are more common with increasing age.
Pregnancy: this is said to result partly from the pressure of the womb on the veins, but the evidence for this is poor and relaxation of the vein walls by hormones may be more important.
Standing: jobs that involve lots of standing are often said to cause varicose veins, although there is little scientific evidence to support this theory.
Being Overweight: this appears to increase the chance for women, but not for men.
Varicose veins may be unsightly, but in most cases do not cause any symptoms or complications. If treatment is advised, an operation to strip the varicose veins is a common treatment.
A General anaesthetic is given for varicose vein surgery. The anaesthetic remains in your system for 24-48 hours. Therefore, it is important to have a responsible adult to care for you at home following your operation. Your leg(s) will be bandaged and the dressings must stay intact for 24hours, then removed. Stitches will either be dissolvable or they may need to be removed seven to ten days after surgery.
It is normal to have some swelling and bruising up to 3 months after surgery, but if you experience severe pain, or you feel feverish, please contact your own doctor. On average, 1 in 4 people treated with surgery will develop recurrent varicose veins within 10 years. As with all surgical operations, there is a small risk of complications, for example, damage to nearby nerves. 10% of patients will have some numbness at the site of the incision (cut).
Is there anything I need to do after surgery?
For the first week support stockings or tights must be worn during the day and night for one week. For the second week support stockings or tights must be worn during the day only. (Support stockings will be supplied on the ward on admission). Take regular pain relief to assist with recovery and mobility – No Aspirin, unless instructed by your consultant. You may shower after 24 hours (unless instructed by the ward on discharge). There may be some discoloration on your leg(s). This is a solution to prepare the area before surgery is undertaken and will wipe off with warm water. It is important to mobilise. Start by taking short walks and then gradually increasing each day. If your leg(s) ache, then rest with your leg(s) elevated on a padded stool. Do not cross your legs.
Do not drive until you feel confident in carrying out an emergency stop. On discharge from the ward, you will be handed a discharge letter which you should hand in to your health centre. Depending on the nature of your job, you will require one to three weeks off work. A sick certificate may be obtained from your General practitioner.
How can I help myself?
Smoking: If you are a smoker please stop.
Avoid Standing: if you stand for long periods of time, ensure you move your legs at regular intervals.
Lose weight: if you are overweight lose weight, as this may help to improve your varicose veins. Speak to your Practice Nurse for advice on this.
Care of legs: Keep your leg(s) moisturised following surgery.
References for the information contained within this leaflet can be obtained from the author.