Varicose veins

Varicose veins do not always need treatment. If your varicose veins are not causing you discomfort, you may not need to have treatment.

Treatment of varicose veins is usually only necessary to:

ease symptoms – if your varicose veins are causing you pain or discomfort
treat complications – such as leg ulcers, swelling or skin discolouration
Some people also get treatment for cosmetic reasons – but this kind of treatment is rarely available on the NHS, so you’ll usually have to pay for it to be done privately

If treatment is necessary, your doctor may first recommend self care at home.

This may involve:

using compression stockings (your blood circulation will first be checked to see if these are suitable for you)
exercising regularly
avoiding standing up for long periods
elevating the affected area when resting
Compression stockings
Compression stockings are not suitable for everyone. Before these can be recommended for you, you’ll need to have a test called a Doppler investigation to check your blood circulation.

Compression stockings are specially designed to steadily squeeze your legs to improve circulation. They’re often tightest at the ankle and get gradually looser as they go further up your leg. This encourages blood to flow upwards towards your heart.

They may help relieve the pain, discomfort and swelling in your legs caused by your varicose veins. But it’s not known whether the stockings help prevent your varicose veins getting worse, or if they prevent new varicose veins appearing.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only recommends using compression stockings as a long-term treatment for varicose veins if all other treatments are not suitable for you.

If you’re pregnant and have varicose veins, NICE says you may be offered compression stockings for the duration of your pregnancy.

Compression stockings are available in a variety of different sizes and pressures. Most people with varicose veins will be prescribed a class 1 (light compression) or class 2 (medium compression) stocking.

They are also available in:

different colours
different lengths – some come up to your knee, while others also cover your thigh
different foot styles – some cover your whole foot, and some stop before your toes
Compression tights are also available, but not on the NHS. They can be bought from pharmacies or directly from the manufacturers.

You may need to wear compression stockings for the rest of your life if you have deep venous incompetence (blockages or problems with the valves in the deep veins in your legs).

In these circumstances, you’ll need to wear compression stockings even if you’ve had surgery to treat some varicose veins.