Understanding the difference between Thread and Varicose Veins


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In order to work properly, veins are equipped with valves that help our blood flow in the correct direction without backtracking, but when those valves fail, then Thread and Varicose Veins can form.
The easiest way to understand how veins work is by comparing them to trees.
The Roots
The largest vein in your body connects straight to the heart and is known as the vena cava. There are two of them, the superior one, which carries blood from the upper body, and the one we’re interested in, which carries blood from the legs – the inferior vena cava.
vein anatomy
The Trunk
The femoral vein is connected to the inferior vena cava and is the longest vein in your body, spanning the length of both your legs. These are paired with an artery and lie deep within groups of muscles. They are connected to superficial veins by perforator veins, which are an essential part of the blood drainage system.
The Branches
Superficial veins like the saphenous veins are the ones that lie closest to the skin and are subject to becoming varicose. They carry less blood than deep veins and play an important part in cooling the body. These veins become varicose when their valves stop functioning properly, causing blood to pool and the vein to become large and swollen.
Varicose Veins are usually blue or purple, with a torturous, raised pattern. They can become itchy, cause you discomfort when walking and they can also be painful. Despite the limitations they can impose on a person, the NHS won’t usually treat them despite a change in guidelines in 2013, but in 10% of cases, those who leave their Varicose Veins untreated end up developing venous ulcers, which cause chronic leg wounds and can be rather painful.
Varicose Veins copy
The Leaves
The smallest of superficial veins that extend from far larger ones are known as Thread Veins or Spider Veins. These are tiny blood vessels that often appear in blue and red clusters of thin lines. They aren’t raised like Varicose Veins and since they don’t hurt, their removal is often seen as a cosmetic procedure. However, the Edinburgh Vein Study (2000) showed that 30% of those with Thread Veins ended up developing Varicose veins.

Varicose Vein Treatments

To treat Varicose Veins you used to have to rely on Vein Stripping and go under general anaesthesia to have unwanted veins forcefully removed from your body. Not pleasant.
In fact, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) changed its guidelines in July 2013 to recommend for Vein Stripping (75.7% success rate) to only be used in rare cases, and that instead, such veins should preferably be treated by EVLA (95.4% success rate), which stands for Endovenous Laser Ablation.

Before and after EVLA treatment
Before and after EVLA treatment.

During the procedure, a very thin laser-tipped fibre is inserted and guided through your veins to the very edge of the unhealthy one. As the fibre is pulled back, the laser tip works to collapse the vein’s walls so that the whole of it is eradicated all the way down to its deep vein source. By removing that whole branch completely to ensure that the trunk only directs nourishment to the remaining healthy branches – thus nipping the problem right in the bud.
At The Private Clinic we also offer VenaSeal treatment which uses a medical adhesive to close varicose veins. This is a great treatment for patients who have a needle phobia as VenaSeal only requires a single injection per vein. An ultrasound is used to guide the small catheter through the affected veins which dispenses small amounts of medical grade Sapheon Glue. The vein will then close and be gradually absorbed by the body.
We also have Foam Scelerotherapy and Phelebectomy treatments available for those that are not suitable for EVLA or VenaSeal treatments.

Thread Vein Treatments

Thread Veins are too small for this kind of treatment and instead Sclerotherapy or laser treatments such as CoolGlide or Intense Pulsed Light treatment (IPL) are used. Sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution into the small veins to force them to collapse while thread vein laser treatment directs intense light at thread veins which causes the blood within them to coagulate and divert back into veins located deeper below the surface of the skin.

Before and after treatment for Thread Veins.
Before and after treatment for Thread Veins.

We also offer treatments for facial thread veins and under eye thread veins.

Vein Treatments at The Private Clinic

We’ve pioneered the use of EVLA treatments and are proud to say that we are one of the UK’s most recognised vein treatment centres.

Expert Vascular Surgeons

We offer vein treatment consultations at our London Harley StreetBirmingham, Buckinghamshire, Bournemouth, Leeds, Manchester and Northampton clinics and consultation rooms.
To find out more about vein treatments or to book a consultation, please call 0333 920 2471 or use our vein online contact form.