Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?
Misconceptions are prevalent about varicose veins. Most people think that varicose veins are only a cosmetic inconvenience. They often assume insurance will not cover treatment.
Some believe that these bulging veins are a normal part of aging. In this article, we will debunk all these myths. But first, Louis' story highlights how varicose veins affect more people than yourself.
What is Louis’ Story?
Louis is a 34 -year-old machinist who enjoys the outdoors and biking to work daily. He was young when he first started noticing varicose veins on his legs, but like many others, Louis ignored the symptoms.
As a machinist, he spends his days standing. So, when his legs felt tired, achy, and swollen, he dismissed these symptoms as part of the job, but the symptoms increased. He began to notice bulging veins in his lower left thigh and skin discolorations on his ankles.
Eventually, a small wound developed. Louis’ wife finally convinced him to contact a board-certified vein specialist.
During the first visit, the doctor did an ultrasound of the veins, which showed that Louis’ varicose veins were leaking into the surrounding tissue. Unfortunately, a venous ulcer was forming, and Louis needed help!
Here at Center for Vein Restoration, our clinic specializing in varicose veins customized a holistic treatment plan for him. The care plan addressed his damaged veins and venous ulcer. Thankfully, symptoms were relieved three months later, and the wound was resolved.
Reasons Why People Delay Treatment for Varicose Veins
Technology has advanced the treatment of spider and varicose veins over the years. Though most complications are treatable, people often delay treatment. Why do people wait so long to get help despite dealing with daily pain?
Here are some reasons often reported to vein specialists:
- “My doctor told me varicose veins were just a cosmetic issue.”
- “I’m taking water pills for the swelling in my legs.”
- “I guess this is just part of getting old.”
- “Since I’m a woman, I assumed I would eventually get varicose veins.”
- “If I had vein disease, I assume I would see bulging veins.”
- “I had my annual check-up, but nobody told me I needed to see a vein specialist.”
- “I assume insurance won’t cover vein treatment, and I can’t afford to pay for it out of pocket.”
- “I thought a primary care provider had to refer me to a vein specialist.”
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Surprisingly, many family practitioners don’t routinely examine their patients’ legs, so you must advocate for yourself. Some vein clinics offer self-assessments that you can do from home.
Symptoms range from mild discomfort to throbbing, painful lower extremities. Early symptoms include swelling, heaviness in the legs, and cramping. However, it is not uncommon to have severe pain.
People often report feeling like there are “pins and needles” in their legs, and others complain of restless legs. Providers often misdiagnose these symptoms as neuropathy. One telltale sign of varicose veins is twisted, bulging veins.
The Dangers of Varicose Veins
More than 50% of adults suffer from varicose veins. This venous disease affects males and females, young and old. Most people dislike the bulging blue veins on their legs but don’t realize these are distressing danger signs.
Varicose veins indicate chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which is limb and life-threatening. Treatment can be simple, easy, and inexpensive, but people often wait too long. Delayed treatment can result in devastating complications.
With blood flow impairment, these ulcers slowly heal, often resulting in infections.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin. The skin is the body’s most extensive and top defense against infection; and when it is damaged, the whole body is vulnerable. Swelling and stretching of the skin make the body more susceptible to disease.
Cellulitis causes the affected area to become swollen and warm. Many people with cellulitis develop a fever and enlarged lymph nodes. If you are diagnosed with cellulitis, your provider will prescribe antibiotics.
Venous eczema is a skin rash caused by varicose veins that inhibit blood flow. Symptoms indicative of venous eczema include the following:
- Discolored or red skin
- Dry, itchy skin
- Crusty, flaky, or scaly skin
- Shiny and inflamed skin
A steroid cream relieves the symptoms of venous eczema. But to cure the rash, you must treat the underlying problem — the varicose veins.
Lipodermatosclerosis is a painful problem caused by the inflammation of fat cells. If you notice the following symptoms, talk to a vein specialist.
- Redness or uneven skin coloration
- Swelling in the affected area
- Hardened skin
With lipodermatosclerosis, people often complain that the pain and discomfort increase during movement.
Vein disease significantly impairs blood flow, which causes blood to pool in weak vessels. When blood pooling occurs, you are at increased risk of developing blood clots. Superficial thrombophlebitis is blood clots in the small vessels closest to the skin.
Deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops in larger, deep veins. These clots often dislodge from the vein wall and travel to the lungs. When this occurs, a pulmonary embolism can develop.
You may notice a painful “pulling” sensation in the calf. Other symptoms are warm, red, swollen, and aching legs. Occasionally, people claim that the symptoms are mild and not significantly noticeable.
DVTs and pulmonary embolisms are medical emergencies. Venous disease is SLOW, SILENT, and EASILY DISMISSED. Don’t fall prey to the beast of venous disease, and if you are concerned, talk to a vein specialist.
Varicose Veins and Leg Amputation
Health concerns are more than skin-deep when varicose veins are present. Though leg amputation is extremely rare, it's still a plausible possibility.
Typically, varicose vein symptoms convince people to receive treatment before amputation is necessary.
Swelling, venous reflux, and pooling inhibit circulation and prevent oxygen and nutrients from reaching the tissue. This lack of oxygen to the tissue can cause nasty wounds.
Without treatment of these venous ulcers, the sore becomes infected and gradually dies. Gangrene is the result. Severe cases of gangrene necessitate amputation.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
The circulatory system consists of a vast network of blood vessels. The artery’s job is to deliver oxygen to organs and body parts.
Veins take the oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart and lungs and collect more oxygen. Capillaries and other small vessels connect the arteries and veins. Efficient blood flow depends on a few factors:
- Muscles contract to push blood toward the heart
- Vein walls maintain tonicity and strength
- Vein valves work to move blood in the right direction
When vein valves are damaged, blood pools and often flows in the wrong direction. Blood pooling occurs when circulation slows down in a specific location.
Venous reflux is caused when blood flows in the opposite direction. Reflux and pooling are double trouble. Vein disease causes blood to accumulate, venous pressure to increase, and blood vessels to stretch.
These stressed-out veins twist, turn, and swell under pressure. Many times, compression therapy is the only treatment needed. Without a vein specialist’s assessment, you can only speculate about what is happening under the skin. It is crucial to talk to a vein specialist to prevent significant complications.
Who is at Risk for Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are a common problem, with more than half of Americans experiencing spider or varicose veins. However, certain factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins.
- Advanced age: As you age, the risk of developing varicose veins increases
- Family history: If you have a family history of spider veins, varicose veins, or DVTs, you are more likely to develop varicose veins
- Hormones: Drastic hormonal changes cause relaxation of blood vessels. Therefore, females, pregnant women, and menopausal women are more susceptible to having varicose veins
- Obesity: Extra weight puts pressure on the body, including the veins. If you are overweight or obese, you’re more likely to develop varicose veins
- Lifestyle: Those with a job requiring long standing or sitting periods are more likely to develop varicose veins. People with a history of smoking are also more susceptible
Varicose Veins and Pregnancy
Pregnancy-related varicose veins aren’t typically dangerous for you or your baby. Though they usually fade after delivery, varicose veins are occasionally associated with pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS).
With weight gain, hormonal changes, and increased blood volume, vascular pressure elevates. If the body’s largest vein, the inferior vena cava, is affected, you will likely experience varicose veins in the pelvic area.
However, PCS is treatable. Though it seems counterintuitive, Ob/Gyns recommend increasing fluid intake, preventing constipation, and improving circulation.
Vein specialists often recommend compression stockings to reduce PCS symptoms. Yet, it's essential to talk to your provider so that you know the appropriate course of action for your pregnancy-related varicose veins. After tests and an assessment, your provider can offer various treatment options.
Why is Treatment for Varicose Veins Important?
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This statement couldn’t be more accurate regarding chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).
Even though varicose veins are common, this doesn’t mean they aren’t severe. Treatment for varicose veins results in improved vascular function and reduced physical and psychological problems. Here are some reasons people choose to have their varicose veins treated early.
Ugly spider veins and bulging varicose veins can be embarrassing, and these rope-like veins on your legs may cause you to wear pants in the middle of summer. This wardrobe is not practical if you live in a hot climate. Vein restoration eliminates unsightly marks and helps you regain your confidence.
Improve the quality of life
Unfortunately, leg swelling and fatigue cause people to avoid their favorite activities — simple things like hiking, shopping, or even cleaning become painfully difficult.
When you have to take frequent breaks to elevate your legs and get relief, it’s past time to see a vein specialist. Treatment for varicose veins reduces swelling and leg fatigue, so you can return to what you love or need to do.
When you treat the problem of varicose veins, you treat the pain. After vein restoration, people claim a significant reduction in burning, itching, tiredness, and pain.
Vein treatment improves your overall comfort and well-being. Many patients wish they would have had treatment done earlier.
Often people with varicose veins have difficulty sleeping or suffer from restless legs syndrome. They intermittently wake up throughout the night to shift positions. Vein treatment resolves the discomfort of varicose veins so that you can uninterruptedly sleep a whole night.
As previously mentioned, varicose veins are the cause of several secondary complications. However, early treatment of varicose veins prevents complications. If we treat the problem, we prevent many life-threatening conditions.
Receive fast treatment
Gone are the days of extended hospitalizations and intensive procedures for treating varicose veins. Today, you can expect a minimally invasive procedure with same-day recovery times. Innovative techniques, like sclerotherapy and laser ablation, can have you back to your routine that day.
Recap: Getting Treatment for Varicose Veins
It’s clear that early treatment improves the quality of life and prevents complications. If you are experiencing symptoms of varicose veins, seek the help of a board-certified vein specialist.
Center for Vein Restoration is America's largest vein center. We are led by physicians and inspired by patients. We understand how physically and emotionally devastating spider and varicose veins can be. Our success is directly related to our passion for prioritizing our patients.
At Center for Vein Restoration, our providers are accredited. We are certified to treat your varicose veins. With over 110 vein centers nationwide, chances are that you can find a vein center near you.
We make it easy with our 24/7 online scheduling. We accept major insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Are you interested in learning how we can help you? Getting started is easy: we have self-assessment resources that guide you in the comfort of your home. Contact us today to learn how we can help you look and feel better.