If only today's men wore skirts...

Men get varicose veins, too. They just choose to ignore them - at their peril, says Cherrill Hicks

Since adolescence, Tim Ibbottson had had a mass of unsightly varicose veins on his left calf, but he did not have them "done" until he was approaching 40. "Then it was only on my doctor's advice," he says. "I wasn't worried about their appearance - beaches aren't part of my lifestyle. I did feel a bit self-conscious in the pool but men tend not to worry about that sort of thing. It's like having a paunch or going bald."

Men may not get pregnant, but they still suffer from varicose veins, according to Mr John Scurr, consultant vascular surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital. Male neglect of their veins, he says, is a mistake.

"Women tend to come for treatment in their twenties and thirties - for cosmetic reasons," he says. "Men don't have to wear a skirt so they ignore their veins until it is too late and they have developed problems such as ulceration."

Fortunately, this picture is changing, especially among professional men. The advent of executive medical screening programmes means many are getting their veins sorted out earlier rather than later, while Mr Scurr says that 25 per cent of his patients are men. "Varicose veins are still, however, something they don't want to talk about."

Varicose veins, which afflict about 15 per cent of adults, tend to run in families. While women usually develop them when they are pregnant - thanks to hormonal changes, combined with the extra weight - men often acquire them because of lifestyle: standing around a lot, either in bars or at work, makes some vulnerable. "For policemen, it's an occupational hazard," says Mr Scurr. Swelling develops, usually on the backs of calves and the insides of legs, when the valves that normally prevent blood from draining back down the legs become defective, causing blood to pool. The result is not only tortuous, swollen veins, but sometimes itchiness, aching legs, swelling of feet and ankles, dry, scaly skin - caused by lack of oxygen - and, in severe cases, leg ulcers.

Traditionally, treatment involves either surgery for more severe cases, in which the vein is "stripped" from the leg, or injections of an irritant solution which, combined with tight bandaging, causes the blood to be diverted to healthier veins.

Depressingly, varicose veins tend to recur after treatment, but Mr Scurr says that nowadays, with proper assessment, this should not happen. At the Middlesex and other large specialist units, doctors now use ultrasound to scan veins below the skin surface and assess which parts of the venous system are incompetent. "Ultrasound means we can remove hidden varicosities as well as surface veins," he adds. New surgical techniques mean that only the smallest of incisions are needed; this results in fewer stitches and less scarring.

Smaller veins can be treated by laser or high-intensity light (known as photoderm), which "cook" the vein and are less invasive than injections, although these treatments are not yet widely available on the NHS.

Can varicose veins be prevented? Probably not, if they are hereditary, but men who tend toward them, or who spend much of their lives standing, should, Mr Scurr advises, wear elastic support socks which come up to the knee and which can be bought from chemists. Plenty of walking may also help.

Suggested Topics
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

    Early Years Educator

    £68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

    Nursery Nurse

    £69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

    Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam