Diagnosis - Varicose veins

Varicose veins are rarely a serious condition and they do not usually need treatment. If your varicose veins do not cause you any discomfort, you may not need to see your GP.

When to see your GP

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if:

  • your varicose veins are causing you pain or discomfort
  • the skin over your veins is sore and irritated
  • the aching in your legs is causing irritation at night and disturbing your sleep

Diagnosing varicose veins

Varicose veins are diagnosed by their appearance. Your GP will examine your legs while you're standing. This is to check for signs of swelling. You do not need to get any tests to get diagnosed for varicose veins.

You may also be asked to describe any pain you have. Your GP may ask you if there are situations that make your varicose veins worse.

For example, some women find their period affects their varicose veins.

Referral to a specialist

Your GP may refer you to a vascular specialist. This is a doctor who specialises in treating blood vessel problems.

They will refer you if you have:

  • varicose veins that are causing pain, aching, discomfort, swelling, heaviness or itching
  • problems with the blood flow in the leg
  • a healed or unhealed leg ulcer below the knee. A leg ulcer is a break in the skin that has not healed within 2 weeks
  • Thrombophlebitis - hard, red and tender varicose veins

Your GP may refer you to a dermatologist (skin specialist) if you have skin changes such as eczema, skin discolouration, hardening and thickening on your calf.

Duplex ultrasound scan

If your specialist is considering treatment for you, a test called a duplex ultrasound scan will be carried out. This is a type of scan that uses high-frequency sound waves. Duplex ultrasound uses doppler (to measure the blood flowing through the veins) and ultrasound imaging to produce a picture of the veins in your leg.

This helps the specialist find any damaged valves that might be causing your varicose veins.

Read about treatment for varicose veins


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021
Next review due: 25 March 2024

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