There are definitely more glamorous topics to talk about than leg veins, but let’s be honest, many of us have them.
These range from small thread and spider veins, to larger green and blue ‘reticular’ veins, and varicose veins. Despite what you may have heard, they don’t appear because of crossing your legs, because of poor circulation or being on your feet all day.
I started to notice blue veins behind my knees in my late 20s. They weren’t terrible but nevertheless I felt self-conscious, so did some research and discovered that a procedure called microsclerotherapy would send them packing.
Microsclerotherapy involves injecting a liquid sclerosant into the vein, which dies and is absorbed over time by the body. It’s safe and fairly effective, so long as you follow the aftercare instructions.
Back then I had around four sessions on both legs which initially did the trick, although a few years later I started to notice some different veins cropping up, including one about three inches long travelling vertically down the back of my calf which had started to bulge slightly.
The thing about leg veins is that even if you’ve had them treated with microsclerotherapy they can return, especially if the underlying cause has not been treated. Some veins can be fairly harmless but others can indicate a predisposition for varicose veins – did you know there are even ‘hidden’ varicose veins?
I certainly didn’t until I met Professor Mark Whiteley of the Whiteley Clinic. If you’re serious about banishing your leg veins, this is the man to see.
The Whiteley Clinic pioneered the first endovenous (non-surgical) varicose vein operation in 1999, which Professor Whiteley himself performed. They offer the highest quality keyhole varicose vein surgery using the world-famous Whiteley Protocol, which stems from decades of research into the subject. It’s a pretty impressive place, by all accounts.
Concerned about the appearance of my veins for some time, I checked in to get them checked out.
First up was a venous duplex ultrasound scan. Discussing the findings with Dr Whiteley, he revealed that I did have a varicose vein, along with some valve failure, which could progress if not treated. He recommended duplex guided form sclerotherapy to treat the ‘feeder’ veins (which connect areas of thread veins) and of course the varicose vein, plus microsclerotherapy to zap any remaining small veins.
Before my appointment, I received an informative booklet explaining what to expect and prepare for, both during and after the procedure. A few weeks later, it was time for treatment.
But bad news – a re-scan revealed that one of my veins had progressed – not uncommon when dealing with venous disease. I was recommended EndoVenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) which uses ultrasound and laser to destroy and close the veins from the inside, plus ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy to get the result I required.
As this came as a bit of a shock, I was given the opportunity to rebook or go ahead. Wanting to get it over with, I chose the latter.
As the treatment is performed under local anaesthetic, I was given two strong painkillers, then half an hour later led into the treatment room. The next 45 minutes certainly weren’t a walk in the park, although some banter with Dr Whiteley and the lovely nurses provided a distraction.
Worst parts? The anaesthetic jabs, the strange tugging sensation and the sclerotherapy injections which stung a bit. A bandage from knee to ankle was then applied – these have to be applied swiftly to ensure the vein is compressed – and a hardcore compression stocking (I chose black) put over the top.
After relaxing in the waiting room with herbal tea and biscuits, I was given a blood thinning shot in my tummy to guard against potential blood clotting, before being discharged. I felt fine and headed straight to Oxford Street for some retail therapy.
Aftercare includes wearing the bandage and compression stockings 24 hours a day for two weeks and to avoid hot water or sweating – so no baths or showers, saunas, exercising or tropical holidays.
Those two weeks actually felt like two months – the bandage and stockings were tight and uncomfortable and my leg ached. My inner thigh felt tender, sore and numb, and ibuprofen became my best friend, not only to help the aches but to minimise inflammation and encourage healing.
I was excited if a little hesitant, to take off the bandages 14 days later. But my expectations were realistic, and as expected my calf was pretty bruised and slightly swollen but not terrible.
Six weeks later I returned to the clinic for a check-up scan and post-foam blood release. This sounds worse than it is – any lumps indicate trapped blood; to release it the sonographer uses a tiny needle to prick the affected vein then squeezes the old blood out, like squeezing a spot. This reduces inflammation and speeds up healing.
I had a few slightly lumpy areas so knew what was coming. And to be honest the worst part was the squeezing and it was very temporary, the needle didn’t hurt at all. The process took about five minutes and actually made a big difference to how my leg looked and felt afterwards.
Foam sclerotherapy kills the vein by causing a ‘chemical burn’. An inflammatory reaction then develops around the dying vein which is then re-absorbed by the body.
This is a slow process which takes several months, but 20 weeks later and things are looking pretty good. I still need microsclerotherapy to treat a few small thread veins, but they are insignificant compared to the varicose vein that is now history.
Now, where did I put those shorts…
For more information and prices, visit www.thewhiteleyclinic.co.uk