The Whiteley Clinic

Varicose veins are often thought to be "only" a cosmetic problem. However research over the last decade or so has shown this to be wrong. Some 20% of patients with varicose veins will go on to get leg ulcers if left untreated. Others will get swollen ankles, skin damage, discomfort, phlebitis or rarely bleeding.
As haemorrhoids are usually treated by bowel surgeons with little research or interest in venous surgery, traditionally haemorrhoids have just been chopped out - not only a very painful operation but also leading to recurrence in a large proportion of cases.
Leg ulcers are a horrible condition that can not only cause pain and suffering to the person with the condition but also affects everybody around them. Patients with leg ulcers often have to give up work, become housebound and can change from independent people to patients requiring constant help and assistance from family, friends, carers and healthcare professionals.
This week sees the 15th anniversary of the first minimally invasive varicose vein operation in the UK and what a massive difference has occurred.
I personally do not believe in the distinction between medicine and "alternative medicine". I would simply say, if something works to cure or alleviate a medical condition it is medicine and if it does not, it is not medicine.
Despite being only 12 years old, his veins responded exactly the same as any adults to treatment. The biggest difference came when I phoned up the day following surgery to check he was all right, to find he was already out playing football with his friends!
It is amazing how many people claim to have had "phlebitis". The term seems to be used by the general public and many doctors and nurses to mean any pain or inflammation in the lower legs. In fact, it is a term so commonly used that many people think they know what they mean by "phlebitis" when they clearly don't.
When a patient has been referred by a family practitioner or private medical insurance company to a specialist, and a substandard result occurs, who takes the blame?
As we all know, the medical world moves slowly, particularly when it comes to recommendations or guidelines. In many instances when drugs or malignant conditions are being assessed, there is a very good rationale for this slow change and there are many examples to support a thorough and well-reasoned (albeit slow) approach.
Varicose veins and "hidden varicose veins" (medically called chronic venous incompetence) affect an awful lot of people. Research suggests 15 to 20% of the adult population suffer with visible varicose veins and around the same number suffer with hidden varicose veins.
Ever since the advent of treating veins with heat (a procedure called endovenous thermoablation) we have used ultrasound to check which veins need treatment in the first place, to guide the endovenous surgery and then to check the veins after the surgery to find out how successful the new techniques are.
Treatments for varicose veins have changed beyond recognition over the last ten years.
So what is the standard treatment for leg ulcers in the UK? Unfortunately it has still not moved on from the dressing and compression treatment so popular 100 years ago.
Unfortunately there is a public perception of varicose veins which labels them as purely cosmetic and relatively unimportant, rather than a serious health issue which requires due care and attention.