FOR years varicose veins have been the bane of middle-aged women.

Celebrities including Emma Thompson and Ulrika Jonsson have both made no secret of the condition.

But actually the condition is just as common in men – it’s just they are worse at seeking help and talking about it.

That’s exactly why Lee Peck was determined go under the knife – and go public about his troublesome veins.

The former star of TV’s Game For A Laugh, who now works in PR, says: “Where women are much more concerned about the cosmetic affect of varicose veins, men are much more likely to adopt the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ philosophy.

“The fact is as many men as women suffer from this condition, but men are much less likely to seek treatment often leaving specialist advice until the problem is much worse than it need be.

“There seems to be a reluctance among men to look after themselves whether that’s going to the doctors with a problem or needing surgery.

“I guess I was the same.”

The 60-year-old, who enjoys cycling, golf and walking, first discovered the bulging veins seven years ago as he cycled 500 miles across France on a charity bike ride.

Daily Echo:

Lee Peck with wife-to-be Kim

He explains: “Any deterioration was quite gradual so I didn’t take that much notice.

“Over time though my leg became heavy, itchy and started to really ache and throb after exercise.

“I also noticed my leg wasn’t as strong as it used to be.

Looking back I can see cycling became much harder.”

Last year Lee decided to do something about it.

He visited vascular surgeon Gareth Morris at the Nuffield Health Wessex Hospital in Chandler’s Ford and was diagnosed with valve failure where the vein meets the groin and also at the back of his calf.

The weakened valves allow the blood to flow backwards down the leg where it collects or pools in the vein.

Normally, a series of oneway valves inside the veins help blood get back up from the legs but when the valves become damaged or diseased, the blood can't move out, and the veins expand.

This leads to a lack of oxygen and glucose in the muscles together with a rise in waste products particularly lactic acid and carbon dioxide.

Though varicose veins are commonly seen as nothing more than a cosmetic issue, both these factors can have an effect on muscle performance, especially in long distance running, cycling or football.

Varicose veins can also pose a more serious health risk – possible complications, albeit rarely, include skin ulcers, phlebitis and blood clots.

Varicose veins are common in the legs as the blood has the biggest struggle against gravity to return to the heart from the bottom of the body.

Lee underwent endovenus laser ablation ten weeks ago.

The procedure involves a laser that heats and destroys the vein wall. The vein then disintegrates in months.

Veins in his calves were tied off through a tiny incision guided by ultrasound and the varicose veins were removed through needle stabs with a micro-hook.

Lee says the operation, which took place in just one day, was a success – apart from wearing stockings.

Daily Echo:

Lee's leg after the surgery

“Make no mistake every procedure is daunting but the team at Wessex Hospital put me completely at ease.

“I had to wear a very attractive elastic support stocking for two weeks much to the hilarity of my wife-to-be Kim and the kids.”

Despite slowly getting back on his feet with daily exercises and bruising on his legs, he has now completely recovered.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the outcome. My symptoms have completely disappeared and any tenderness is decreasing by the day.

“The small scar at the back of my calf has healed and aesthetically my leg looks better than ever, which is a real bonus. I’m certainly looking forward to getting the shorts on this summer!”