Who wants varicose veins? Not us! We speak to Professor Mark Whiteley who gives us the lowdown on the truth about varicose veins

Varicose veins are a condition that will affect up to 40% of us in our lifetime, however for many there is an awful lot of confusion surrounding what they actually are and where they come from…

What many people will be surprised to learn is that much of what we are told is unfortunately nothing more than old wives tales and myths, which don’t promote understanding or accurate awareness of a condition which, in the majority of cases, can be successfully treated.

To separate fact from fiction, internationally renowned vascular specialist Professor Mark Whiteley of  The Whiteley Clinic, has given his expert opinion about many of the common myths surrounding the condition:


People who cross their legs are more likely to develop varicose veins. – MYTH!

Professor Whiteley Says: “There is no evidence to suggest that crossing your legs will cause varicose veins or make them worse once they have started to develop. They simply result from an intrinsic problem with the veins themselves passed on in your genes from your parent and so cannot be induced by people’s leg crossing habits.”

Only the old and the overweight will suffer from varicose veins.MYTH!

Professor Whiteley Says: “No – the biggest influence on varicose veins is your parents – and what genes they gave you. In reality, 40% of all adults will be affected by varicose veins and, contrary to popular belief, the condition can strike at any time of life. As with the majority of medical conditions, they are more common the older one gets but that doesn’t stop young people getting them if their genes determine it. I recently operated on a 12 year old boy with severe varicose veins and have had many patients in their teens. Weight also has no influence on the development of varicose veins whatsoever and it is also not true that men are more likely to get varicose veins than women.”

Varicose veins are only cosmetic and don’t need to be treated. – MYTH!

Professor Whiteley Says: “There are many old wives tales which lead people to believe that varicose veins are purely cosmetic. The truth is that, if not treated correctly, varicose veins are only going to get worse, and can lead to more concerning problems such as blood clots, skin damage and leg ulceration. Indeed, research suggests that 1 in 5 people with “simple” varicose veins will go onto leg ulceration if left untreated. Hence if you spot a seemingly “harmless” bulging varicose vein on the surface of the skin, you should consider getting it checked by a specialist as in many cases this can be a sign of an underlying venous issue. Indeed, if there are any symptoms whatsoever from the varicose vein, then the NICE guidelines suggest treatment with endovenous laser or radiofrequency being optimal.

Pregnancy causes varicose veins. – MYTH!

Professor Whiteley Says: “Pregnancy does not cause varicose veins to occur. However, if someone already has an underlying venous condition then it is true that pregnancy may make that condition worse and ‘bring it to the surface’. Women often find that the troublesome veins seem to “disappear” following the birth of their child. However, they are usually only less swollen outside of pregnancy and with time or with a further pregnancy then they are likely to come back with a vengeance. It’s much better to get it checked out early to avoid any future problems.”

There’s no point operating on varicose veins as they will only grow back! – MYTH!

Professor Whiteley says: “Unfortunately, with the outdated treatment method of ‘stripping’, a lot of patients did find that their faulty veins returned. Luckily venous technology has come a long way since then! With the cutting edge techniques formulated into The Whiteley Protocol that we use today at The Whiteley Clinic – such as treating varicose veins with endovenous pin-hole surgery which I myself pioneered, under local anaesthetic and new procedures such as Venaseal, foam sclerotherapy and the VenaCure EVLT never touch direct (NTD) system, – the success rate is significantly higher and we have not treated a patient whose veins have grown back to date. Hopefully we have seen the back of the ineffective treatment method of stripping, as in recent guidelines NICE have recommended that surgery is used as a last resort to treat varicose veins and instead newer therapies, such as those mentioned above, should be offered first as they promote faster recovery and shorter hospital stays”.

Did you know: Varicose veins are also known as spider veins, a nickname that originates from the wiry, spider-like appearance of the veins under the surface of the skin.


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Rachel is the beauty and fashion director at IDEAL. She loves trying new products and is an avid fan of London's fashion, from the high end to the high street.