Compression socks or surgery for varicose veins


About six weeks ago I went on a ride wearing some far too tight, cheap mail-order bib shorts. They said they were a medium, which is what I wear usually. I’m between 28" and 30" waist. However, these shorts felt very restrictive around my thighs and backside.

Anyway, shortly after a rare 100k club ride (I have a baby and toddler so I can’t get out much) I got what felt like a knot in my right calf. I used a foam roller, but couldn’t remove it, so I asked my wife to massage it. She couldn’t feel a knot. A few days later my ankle started itching and then the skin slowly darkened and I developed these brown splodges on the inside of my ankle

I went to the doctor a few days ago and she said the pigmentation was varicose ezchma. She thinks the knot feeling is a varicose vein. I have a rather gnarly George Hincapie varicous vein already, but that doesn’t hurt. This one isn’t visible as it feels deeper in the muscle but is really rather bothersome, particularly after TR workout when it feels heavy. It’s causing me restless legs at night.

During the diagnosis the doctor asked if I wore any tight clothing and that’s when I put two and two together about the bib shorts. She said the national health service no longer treat varicose veins and I will have to go private if I want to have them removed. She didn’t recommend surgery because she thought it could cause had long term problems. She did mention compression stockings.

Would anyone be able to offer some advice? Do you think cycling/running compression socks are a good idea? I have ordered some and I’ll so how I go on. They don’t ‘look very pro’, but I’m beyond caring about that at the moment. Do you think I should save up for an operation and will that affect my cycling? Is the doctor right to warn against having surgery? All the private surgery websites mention no long-term issues except the possibility of varicose veins developing in the future. I don’t know if I can trust them as they’re after money. However, I see their logic of removing a vein which isn’t functioning properly. My doctor seemed to think I should keep all my veins.

I’m worried that pain free cycling days are over, but I’m trying to be positive.

Many thanks

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Hi James,

I’m in a similar situation to yourself with the exception of the ezchma.

I have two large varicose vains in my right leg. Neither have ever caused me any discomfort but they are horrible to look at. Long story short, the valves in the vains a broken and to use the phrase my GP used, ‘gravity is not my friend’. The blood pools in my ankle.

Having visited my GP a month ago, I was prescribed below the knee compression stockings. The doctor said that the only way I’d be offered a surgical option on the NHS was if I had varicose ezchma. The GP said that the condition would worsen if I didn’t wear the stockings. I have been wearing one on my right leg and I’ve subsequently seen a surgeon on my wife’s private healthcare.

He gave me the option of three procedures. I can’t remember the medical terminology/names of the procedures but the cheapest option (£1,300) involved injections of foam glue into the vains. The second option (£2,600) fuses the vains with heat. The leg is then wrapped in constricting bandages for two weeks, forcing the body to use other vains. The third option (£3,200) was straight up surgery. Open up your groin and snake the vains out. The surgeon didn’t recommend this procedure to me.

I was told that the second option saw a 93% success rate over the first three years. I’m seriously considering the second option.

Hope this is in some way useful.

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I had several varicose veins removed from the back of my right knee when I was around 13/14 years old! I’ve never had any issues or side effects (I’m now 33)

Prior to the surgery I had no effects and apart from being cosmetic I am under the impression there are no health risks attached to them (hence the nhs not covering them)

To be honest, unless they’re really getting you down I would leave them

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Thanks @PusherMan and @Websta24 . That’s great info. I really appreciate it.

It took three weeks to see the GP and I should have asked more questions while I was there. I’ve ordered some knee high compression socks that should arrive tomorrow, so I’ll see if that stops the calf pain this weekend. If not, I’ll make another appointment to get more info and maybe ask about prescribed compression stockings and see if I can get referred to a specialist because of the ezchma. I’ll ask about the three options you mentioned. It’s just a low level dull pain that is bearable, but it is incessant and worse after cycling, so I want to get it sorted some how.

Good luck with whatever you choose to do. I agree the second option looks good. My original unsightly, non-painful varicose vein did stress me out when I first noticed it when I decided to shave my legs to look more pro. I gradually became less self-conscious about it, but not entirely.


Whilst I don’t like the look of my veins, it was the swelling (blood pooling at my ankle) that pushed me to seek a medical opinion.

If I were you, I’d request a second option on the NHS. I remember my GP clearly saying that surgical intervention was offered if ezchma was present.

Thanks. That’s good to know. I’ll get the second opinion.

FWIW I had surgery for this a couple years ago and have not had issues. My insurance (US / Providence) did cover it. There was some criteria that had to be met based off an ultrasound. It was explained to me as a measure of how much time per pulse blood flowed the wrong way.

The surgery was pretty much unnoticeable (the method was the cauterization technique someone mentioned). I also had the veins stripped from one leg after - they were very extensive on that leg. They were likely going to disappear anyhow but it was towards the end of the year and the out of pocket max was hit and I just wanted it to be done with. Also not painful, but a very… interesting… feeling.

Good to hear about your successful treatment.

I think I might be able to get the ultrasound on the NHS as the doctor did consider referring me for one to check there wasn’t a clot.

Many thanks

I had knotty looking varicose veins on one leg… largely ignored them until they started getting itchy - the eczema you talk about.

I researched all the options you spoke of and ended up going for Venaseal. The surgeon explained the outcomes for Venaseal were similar to other options but I was swayed by the fact that he could do the procedure in his offices without anaesthesia etc. and also that I’d be able to train at the usual intensity the next day.

Around 3 months after surgery all swelling etc disappeared and the leg looked and felt totally normal.

Not a total cakewalk… during the 5 or 6 weeks following the procedure I had weird little lumps appear up and down the leg… as well as some aches. Nothing that ever stopped me training but I needed to take NSAIDs to keep it under control - which I don’t normally do. Also, had to wear full-leg compression for the first week or two.

All up - totally recommend and I’ll get it again if / when the other leg plays up.

Final note - when I was asking the surgeon if sports performance would somehow suffer if I had one less vein moving blood around… his answer was that that incompetent vein was actually a net negative and circulation would improve overall when other deeper veins picked up the workload. Free watts?

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Thanks very much, Ron. I really appreciate the info. After your recommendation and the two previous posters’, I think I am going to try and get it fixed with some non-invasive, local aesthetic fix. I will see what the doctor recommends, but I’ll enquire about the venaseal. I am going to see if I can see another GP at my doctor’s surgery and push for an NHS referral because of the eczema, otherwise I will try and find a local private clinic with a good rep.

The extra watts make sense. Much of the stuff I have read online contradicts my doctor’s opinion that we miss our malfunctioning veins after they’ve been removed. Incidentally, my right leg with the problems is a few watts weaker than my left, so maybe it’ll balance it out.

Thanks again

Compressive stockings are just awesome development and I am sorry that I did not know about them before. Recently, I decided to run in the mornings in order to lose weight and I felt happier and freer, but the problem is that my legs began to swell badly and I noticed the first signs of varicose veins. It was very strange and I started reading reviews on the Internet and a lot of people talked about the need to use compression socks. I learned all the benefits of compression socks for women and decided to purchase them. The prices in this online store were quite affordable and these socks really helped me a lot!

Compression socks are pretty good at relieving and preventing varicose veins. I would suggest to try using compression socks before the surgery and see if things get better. For that, you can take a look at the comprehensive guide (link below) for choosing the best compression socks for varicose veins as well as it also has the other important information regarding the socks that might be helpful.

Hi, just to add my two cents. I had bad varicose veins in both legs. A specialist took one look at them and recommended surgery. No cost to me. Thank you Canadian health system. Before the surgery my legs would swell up, very sore and very itchy. The surgery itself was not a problem. Numerous incisions from groin to ankle. I was off the bike for about 3 weeks. When I started training again I noticed a big improvement. A year later I have noticed the possibility of new varicose veins, so I will need to keep an eye on them. I did not wear compression socks during the months after the surgery, but for the last 4 months I have been wearing below the knee compression socks on a regular basis. I think wearing them is helping. My hope is that I can “control/contain” any new occurrence of varicose veins.

Good to hear about your successful treatment , the good compression Socks