Varicose veins: A qualitative study to explore expectations and reasons for seeking treatment

Simon John Palfreyman, Kim Drewery-Carter, Kathryn Rigby, Jonathan A. Michaels, Angela Mary Tod

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    Background. Patients experience a wide range of symptoms from varicose veins and are seeking treatment from health care providers. However, there is little data on the relative effectiveness of the treatments available. Patients are therefore often confronted with a choice regarding treatment that they are ill-equipped to make. This lack of certainty and the resultant potential for variability in treatment decisions can mean that patients have expectations that are unrealistic or unfulfilled. Aims and objectives. The aim of our study was to explore patients' expectations and reasons for seeking treatment for varicose veins. Additional aims included the exploration of symptoms associated with varicose veins and their impact on quality of life. Design. Qualitative study conducted in a large NHS Trust. Methods. A total of 16 patients, who had been referred to a specialist vascular service for the treatment of varicose veins, were recruited. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the patients' reasons for seeking treatment. Framework analysis was used to analyse the data from the anonymized transcripts. Results. Participants attributed a wide range of symptoms to their varicose veins, and were actively seeking treatment with the expectation that they would gain symptom relief. The symptoms attributed to their varicose veins had a significant negative impact on their quality of life and lifestyle. Improving the cosmetic appearance of their legs was seen as a secondary benefit. Conclusions. The perceived symptoms of varicose veins can impact on lifestyle and quality of life. Patients seek treatment with the expectation of treatment outcomes that are not supported by robust clinical evidence. Appropriate education and management of such expectations are an essential step in caring for this group of patients. Relevance to clinical practice. Nurses are caring for patients with varicose veins in a range of clinical settings. When caring and providing information for this group of patients, nurses need to be aware of the impact of varicose vein symptoms and to understanding that patients may have unrealistic expectations or invalid reasons for seeking treatment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)332-340
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


    • Patient expectations
    • Qualitative study
    • Varicose veins


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