​Varicose Veins


Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged veins that can be seen just under your skin. It is a common disorder, more common amongst women than men. Any veins can theoretically become varicose, but the ones most commonly affected are the veins in your legs and feet. Our bodies have two types of veins, the ones on the surface (known as the superficial veins) and the ones that are deeper inside. Usually it is the veins on the surface that become varicose. However, in very rare cases, the veins lodged deeper inside may also become varicose.

Causes of varicose veins include the following:

  • Old age: As you get older, the veins in your body lose their elasticity. They also become weak, and can sometimes fail to send blood back to your heart. When blood starts pooling inside your veins, they become enlarged as a result and start to appear blue because they are carrying large amounts of deoxygenated blood.

  • Pregnancy: Another cause of varicose veins is pregnancy. The blood flow from your legs to your pelvis is sometimes reduced when you are pregnant. As the foetus grows, the additional weight exerts a greater pressure on the veins in your legs, causing them to become enlarged. Hormonal changes during pregnancy are also a contributing factor.

  • Defective or damaged valves: If the valves in your veins fail to transport deoxygenated blood back to your heart and lungs, this may cause your veins to bulge and stand out.

The most obvious symptoms of varicose veins are blue or dark purple veins that stand out and are visible through the skin. They appear to be twisted and bulging. Usually varicose veins are not a painful disease, but sometimes painful symptoms may occur. You may experience an ache or heaviness in your legs, along with a throbbing sensation. If you are experiencing pain, it can be worsened after sitting or standing for a long time.

This disease is not harmful or life threatening, but it is uncomfortable to live with. Our doctors at the Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital can help you to manage your symptoms on an outpatient basis. You can obtain expert medical advice at the vascular service line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

In order to diagnose varicose veins, your doctor will first conduct a physical exam. He/she will examine your legs in detail and ask you to describe any pain, swelling or other symptoms. If your doctor needs additional details, he/she may also conduct a procedure called ultrasound test. During this procedure, a lab technician will apply a gel on your skin and use a device known as transducer on the affected areas of your body. Using high frequency sound waves, an image of the inside of your body used on a computer screen. Your doctor can then examine this for the presence of clots or other abnormalities. Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor will recommend treatment options.

Varicose veins are not a life threatening or harmful disease. It can usually be treated on an outpatient basis. If you have been diagnosed with varicose veins, your doctor will recommend caution and care. If you are overweight, you will need to lose weight in order to alleviate your symptoms. Also avoid standing or sitting in one position for too long. A preferred option in many cases is to wear a piece of clothing known as compression stockings. These must be worn all day long. Compression stockings allow the veins in your legs to relax and improve blood flow.

If you do not respond the above methods, your disease may be more severe. In such cases, your doctor will likely recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Sclerotherapy: Your doctor will inject a solution inside your veins which will help to close them and they fade away with time. You do not need to be admitted into the hospital for this and the procedure can easily be carried out on an outpatient basis at your doctor's office. Sometimes, your doctor may need to carry this out more than once.

  • Catheters: Catheters may also be used to treat varicose veins. A catheter is a thin tube which your doctor will insert into your vein. By applying a little heat, the enlarged veins will be destroyed and shrunken down with time. This procedure usually performed when the disease is more enlarged than normal.

  • Open surgery: on some patients, open surgery for varicose vein is a better option.

Sometimes, you may not require any treatment at all and the varicose veins will disappear by itself. For instance, varicose veins developed during pregnancy will fade away within three to twelve months.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.


​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.