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How Common Are Varicose Veins?

Many people are affected by vein conditions. But just how common are they?


The Bonn Vein Study is one of the largest and most quoted medical studies looking at how common venous disease is. It looked at over 3000 adults: the participants completed a questionnaire, they were examined carefully and they underwent an ultrasound scan. They were allocated into one of 7 classes. C0 being a completely normal assessment with no signs of vein abnormality all the way to C6 which is an open leg ulcer. There are 3 striking findings from this study. Firstly, fewer than 10% of the participants had completely normal legs, that is no spider veins, no varicose veins and a completely normal venous duplex ultrasound scan. Secondly, nearly one in 5 people had either swelling, varicose eczema or ulceration- that being a significant complication of their veins. Thirdly, over a third of those in this study had superficial venous reflux on ultrasound. So, as you can see, venous disease is very common.

Another important study, the Edinburgh Vein Study looked at over 1500 adults. It too involved a questionnaire, a standardized assessment and classification of venous disease in the legs, as well as a standardised ultrasound scan to detect venous reflux in the leg veins. A follow-up 13 years later included a reclassification to see if there had been any deterioration or progression of the varicose veins or if complications had developed. Nearly half of the participants with venous disease deteriorated over the 13-year period, and almost one-third with varicose veins developed a complication.

These 2 studies, the Bonn Vein Study and the Edinburgh Vein Study confirm that vein conditions are common and that they get worse with time. The latest findings from the Bonn Vein Study strongly suggest that early treatment of varicose veins prevents deterioration and helps avoid complications such as varicose eczema and leg ulcers.

It has been estimated that the National Health Service (in the UK) spends £5bn annually on treating chronic wounds of which £1bn annually is spent treating venous leg ulcers. Leg ulcers and other vein complications such as phlebitis, varicose eczema and thrombosis cause distress, pain, time off work and a considerable economic burden to the NHS, so vein problems are indeed common and very important.

If you would like more information about our treatments for varicose veins, varicose eczema, phlebitis or leg ulcers, contact us to request our information pack.