What started out as a fairly simple varicose vein article, has turned into a vein-like can of worms.
Let’s start from the very beginning; a few years ago, I had some broken capillaries on my lower right leg which were progressively becoming more noticeable and harder to cover up, so I finally took the time to get them removed (I say “took the time” because it can be quite a lengthy and unsightly treatment at times).
When I attended my consultation with a very reputable doctor, I was clearly told of my treatment plan and the results I should expect (microsclerotherapy, darkening of the capillaries for a few weeks and then goodbye capillaries!) it all made sense, apart from the big exception of my leg not being scanned at all. Being from an aesthetic beauty background, I fully expected to have a scan in order to find the ‘feeder vein’ aka the cause of all the broken capillaries – instead, I was told that I would not need a scan and was given lots of medical explanations as to why it was not necessary, so of course, I didn’t give it a second thought (I mean, I really know my stuff when it comes to beauty but I’m not so conceited that I think my beauty training out-trumps elite medical training!!).
I had 2 sessions of sclerotherapy – a slightly stingy process of having a sticky, sugar-type solution injected into the broken capillaries, to push the stagnant blood out (this is what you can see through the skin) and literally stick the capillary walls together to close them and prevent blood from pooling back in again.
The procedure was done with the naked eye, and post-treatment care was simply to wear surgical stockings for a week post treatment which I could remove to shower. I found out the hard way that this was all wrong……
Initially, I was very happy with the treatment – it was simple, affordable and it did the trick, my broken capillaries were barely noticeable, until one day 6 months later (and 3 weeks before I went on a trip of a lifetime) when I got out of bed and felt the weirdest feeling at the back of my right knee, like a sudden swelling. I touched behind my knee, and there it was; a squishy, bulging varicose vein. It looked disgusting and it was really quite uncomfortable. I called the clinic in a panic, worried about the health implications of my upcoming long haul flight (not to mention how it was going to look in my carefully planned holiday wardrobe), I wasn’t permitted to talk to the doctor without a consultation fee (as it was a new procedure that was needed) and I was simply told “it can happen”. Gutted.
I learned to live with the mess at the back of my knee until lockdown was sprung on us – the sudden stand-still to life made them worse than ever and I realised, not only did I need to do something about them for my health, but after previously raving about how good my former treatment was, I owed it to readers to speak up, and I’m so glad I did, because it led me to meet Professor Whiteley – probably the only person in the world to make the subject of veins engaging! Seriously!
For my case, the cause and treatment was very clear as soon as my legs were scanned; I had a large perforator vein (a perforator vein communicates horizontally between the superficial veins and the deep veins) with valves that weren’t working well enough to keep the blood flow going forward. I was shown on screen what was happening and it was pretty conclusive even for a novice like me but interestingly many doctors do not accept that perforator veins result in varicose veins and broken capillaries – and this is where the can of worms conversation started…..
Did you know that the main cause of leg ulcers is underlying failing veins? This horrible, debilitating condition can cause much pain, discomfort and embarrassment (the open wound can weep and sometimes smell) let alone the constant risk of infection. Yet, hospital treatment and training for the treatment of venous leg ulcers has barely changed in 100s of years; the wound is simply dressed and compressed, resulting in a life of hospital treatments and bandage wearing.
This treatment protocol costs the NHS billions of pounds (!!!) in dressings, nursing and hospital appointments yet there seems to be a huge reluctance to improve on procedure and diagnosis.
Besides the costs above, patients are also now beginning to successfully sue the NHS for failing in their duty of care with regards to venous leg ulcers:
Janet Cassie suffered with her leg ulcer for 4 years before discovering Professor Whiteley – after just 1 treatment with him to treat her underlying perforator veins, the ulcer began to heal. Then a follow up treatment on the stasis veins underneath the ulcer saw the ulcer heal completely in just a matter of weeks. No more dressings, no more hospital appointments and no more pain. After 4 years of being told she had an incurable condition, Janet was cured.
Janet’s story is sadly far from isolated – often due to what Dr Whitely has coined “hidden varicose veins” i.e there are no/few visible varicose veins on the surface which has caused confusion with diagnosis in the past – but this is 2021, medical and technological advancement has come on a very long way since these treatment guidelines and protocols were outlaid!!
I can imagine anyone who knows somebody with a leg ulcer will feel quite angry hearing this information, I certainly was (my grandmother-in-law suffered terribly with a leg ulcer for many years at the end of her life), for others that have a venous leg ulcer I hope this information sets you on the road to recovery – just be prepared for your Doctor to totally dismiss these claims though. I’m not bold enough to state in black and white the reasons why I personally think this scandal is occurring, especially on the back of the pandemic when our NHS workers have done such an unimaginable and heroic job, but as we’ve seen with the PPE contracts, someone is always benefitting somewhere.
Now back to my varicose veins! Prof Whiteley performed what is called a TRLOP closure of my incompetent perforator vein and ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy – the ultrasound is key in achieving the best possible outcome as it allows the practitioner to see exactly where and how much to inject. The TRLOP procedure was invented at the Whiteley Clinic and involves closing the vein with heat via insertion of a needle into the vein also with guided ultrasound – I’ve put that in basic terms because it sounds quite horrible, but I can promise you it is not! I was given some local anaesthetic and I barely felt a thing! The procedure is unbelievably quick – it takes longer to get prepped for the treatment than it does the actual treatment!
The part that I didn’t like was the post-treatment compression stockings – I thought I was mentally prepared but 21 days and nights without removing to even shower really tested me to my limits. It sounds ridiculous but I felt claustrophobic and really, really uncomfortable – I even slept with an icepack on my feet (also please remember to cut your toenails before your appointment it will only add to the discomfort to have long toenails!!). However, this is such a small price to pay for varicose-vein-free legs (and in all honesty, I think I was rare case for being at such a discomfort, some might say dramatic..) and the compression stockings are such an integral part of the treatment; the veins and capillaries must be compressed to prevent the blood having access back in and opening them back up again – this was one of the key reasons why my previous treatment failed so quickly (that and the massive feeder vein lurking below the surface).
2 months on and the results are quite astonishing; Prof Whiteley told me I’d be “happy this summer and over the moon by next summer” as everything heals. Well, I can tell you I am over the moon already – I do still have a few marks and capillaries which need a tiny follow-up treatment, but they are so faint and, most importantly, flat, that they really do not bother me at all. It was beginning to look such a mess behind my knee before my treatment, I was feeling really quite embarrassed and self-conscious about it, and they were impossible to hide, but now I feel proud to get my legs out again! So proud I’ll still be wearing shorts at Christmas!
Don’t put it off – if you are conscious of your veins, you will never regret getting rid of them.
Clinics in Guildford, London and Bristol, call 0330 0581 850 or visit thewhiteleyclinic.co.uk
- 1st Consultation : £275.00
- Scan : £500.00
- Follow-up : £175.00
- TRLOP : £1,286.00
- Foam sclerotherapy : £971.00