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Varicose veins - Diagnosing varicose veins

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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If you have varicose veins and they do not cause you any discomfort, you may not need to visit your GP. Varicose veins are rarely a serious condition and they do not usually require treatment.

However, you should seek advice from your GP if:

  • Your varicose veins are causing you pain or discomfort.
  • The skin over your veins is sore and irritated.
  • The aching in your legs is causing irritation at night and disturbing your sleep.

Varicose veins are diagnosed by their appearance. Your GP will examine your legs while you are standing to check for signs of swelling. You may also be asked to describe any pain you have and whether there are situations that make your varicose veins worse. For example, some women find their menstrual cycle (periods) affects their varicose veins.

Your GP will also want to know if you are at an increased risk of developing varicose veins, such as:

  • having a family history of varicose veins
  • being pregnant
  • having a healthy body mass index (BMI)
  • having deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the body)
  • a history of leg injury (for example, having previously broken a bone in your leg)

Further investigation

If your GP feels it is necessary to investigate your varicose veins further, they may refer you to a vascular specialist (a doctor who specialises in veins), who will decide if further tests are necessary.

In most cases, a test called a duplex ultrasound scan will be carried out. This is a type of scan that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce a picture of the veins in your legs. The picture shows the blood flow and helps the vascular specialist locate any damaged valves that might be causing your varicose veins.

Medical Review: August 18, 2012
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