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Leg Thread Veins - The Facts


Development of thread veins can be made worse by carrying too much weight, smoking and not getting enough exercise.

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Leg veins / Thread veins

Summer’s coming and if the thought of shedding trousers and showing your legs fills you with dread, then take heart! There are treatments that can dramatically improve the appearance of unsightly thread veins.

So what are thread veins?

Like so many other problems, thread veins develop as you age – it’s thought that things like pregnancy and menopausal hormonal changes encourage their development, which is why women are more affected than men. Development of thread veins can be made worse by carrying too much weight, smoking and not getting enough exercise. However, some people may have the bad luck to have a genetic tendency towards getting them. Unfortunately, nearly all of us get them as we age. Around one in five women in their 20’s have thread veins, a figure that rises to around half by the age of forty and continues to increase. By the age of 70 over 70 per cent of women have some thread veins!

Are thread veins an issue other than their appearance?

While it is true that for some people visible veins on legs can just cause a bit of embarrassment and mean we don’t want to bare our legs- other people can have issues like pain, swelling, itching, eczema-like rashes and pigmentation changes in the skin.

So if my leg veins do bother me, what are the options?

There are several things to consider before deciding on a treatment. The options range from surgery, endovenous ablation, laser and sclerotherapy.

Before deciding on which option (or combination of treatments) is best for you, a consultation and examination with a medical professional is a must to ensure you are offered the best choices for you in a safe and regulated clinic.

The treatments are, broadly speaking, tailored to the size and location of the veins:

  • larger veins (e.g. inner thigh and calf): surgery/endovascular ablation
  • medium veins (often lower leg): foam sclerotherapy
  • small surface veins (thigh or calf): microsclerotherapy

Specialist training is required to carry out these treatments- this is definitely not something you should pop into your local beauty salon for! To have the larger veins treated (like the thick varicose veins that you can get) you may need to see a specialist vascular surgeon.

We will go into detail on the treatment of the smaller veins (1-2mm in diameter) as these are the most common ones affecting us. These are usually suitable for sclerotherapy.

What does microsclerotherapy involve?

Sclerotherapy involves small injections with very fine needles into the vein itself. Tiny amounts of a chemical solution (e.g. Fibrovein) are injected to disrupt the blood vessel lining and collapse the thread veins.

The treatment takes 30 minutes or so and afterward you will have to wear compression stockings for 3-4 days continuously, then during the day for 7-10 days.

Many people get good benefit from a single session, but often 2-3 sessions are required, 2 months or more apart.

What are the risks of treating thread veins?

Treatment of small veins (1-2 mm in diameter) is very safe but uncommon potential problems include:

  • bruising, crusting, blistering
  • pigmentation changes in the skin where injected
  • Some swelling and discomfort
  • New veins forming

Very rare problems include skin ulceration/scarring, allergy/anaphylaxis, and blood clotting. These risks are vastly minimized by ensuring you see a fully trained doctor or nurse in a regulated clinic setting where any problems can be identified and dealt with properly.

What happens after the leg vein treatment?

So, apart from having to wear compression stockings for 2 weeks after the treatment, you should also avoid:

  • heavy physical activity
  • swimming, sauna, hot tubs
  • waxing, IPL or other hair removals
  • avoid flying and long-distance travel

What about veins on other body sites, e.g. face?

Visible veins on the face can also be treated, but this is normally best achieved with laser or IPL. Again, your doctor or nurse would discuss this with you at assessment.

Dr James Dean
Written by Dr James Dean
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