Varicose veins are dilated, tortuous veins in the leg.
Most varicose veins are primary; the remainder are secondary to other disorders such as deep venous thrombosis or pelvic occlusion.
Varicose veins occur in young adults and incidence increases with age to 80% at 60 years. Women are affected more frequently than men.
Varicose veins are asymptomatic in the majority of people, yet remain one of the most common reasons for surgical referral in the developed world.
Prominent varicosities usually develop slowly, over a period of 10-20 years. In most cases, the process begins in the groin with failure of the sapheno-femoral valve.
The long saphenous system is involved in 90% of cases; the short system, in 10%.
In some people varicose veins are asymptomatic or cause only mild symptoms, but in others they cause pain, aching or itching and can have a significant effect on their quality of life
Referral from primary care with varicose veins:
* veins found in association with troublesome lower limb symptoms (typically pain, aching, discomfort, swelling, heaviness and itching)
Last reviewed 01/2018