Gastric Varices and Varicose Veins. Is There a Connection?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Image Gastric Varices

Gastric varices and varicose veins are both related to vein dilation, which is the medical term for widened blood vessels that allow more than the usual amount of blood to flow through them. While the two conditions are vastly different—occurring in different parts of the body and having distinct causes, symptoms, and treatments—there may be potential links that tie these two diverse vascular issues together.

What are Gastric Varices?

Gastric varices are dilated blood vessels in the stomach that can lead to severe complications. These enlarged veins, a complication of portal hypertension, are commonly associated with liver cirrhosis. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, cirrhosis is a long-term liver disease where scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue and stops the liver from working normally. When the liver struggles to function properly, blood flow can be impeded, causing increased pressure in the veins around the stomach. This elevated pressure can result in the development of gastric varices.

The connection between liver cirrhosis and gastric varices lies in the disruption of blood flow through the liver. As scar tissue replaces healthy liver cells, blood finds alternative pathways, leading to congestion and dilation of veins in the stomach. Gastric varices pose a significant risk of bleeding, which can be life-threatening if not promptly addressed.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are bulging, dilated, superficial veins of the lower leg, the most common result of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI happens when the one-way valves in the leg veins are weakened or damaged and don’t work as they should, allowing blood to flow backward and pool in the legs. Blood pooling in the lower legs increases pressure in the leg veins, leading to the characteristic appearance of bulging varicose veins and causing symptoms like swelling and leg ulcers.

Unlike gastric varices, varicose veins are not linked to liver cirrhosis. Instead, they often result from risk factors such as genetics, age, hormonal changes, obesity, or prolonged periods of standing or sitting, which weakens the valves responsible for pushing the blood up against gravity.

How Are Gastric Varices and Varicose Veins Similar? How do They Differ?

Varicose veins and gastric varices share the characteristic of vein dilation, rooted in the broader issue of compromised vein function. But this is where the comparisons end, as they are distinct conditions with different causes and locations in the body.

Gastric varices are specifically associated with the portal vein system. They can be life-threatening, per the National Library of Medicine (NIH), due to the risk of bleeding, especially in the context of liver cirrhosis or portal hypertension. On the other hand, varicose veins in the legs are more common and are typically not life-threatening, but they can cause discomfort and may lead to complications such as leg ulcers and blood clots.

Treatment Options for Gastric Varices vs. Varicose Veins

The treatment and management of gastric varices involve addressing the underlying cause, such as portal hypertension and may include endoscopic or interventional radiology procedures to eliminate the varices.

On the other hand, the treatment options for varicose veins in the legs may include lifestyle changes, compression stockings, or minimally invasive outpatient procedures to improve how leg veins look and feel. The board-certified vein physicians at Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) are experts at treating venous disorders and providing exceptional vein care services, offering a range of services related to diagnosing and treating venous disorders, including varicose veins and spider veins.

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CVR services include ultrasound diagnostics and minimally invasive vein treatment that restores healthy veins so individuals can be more active. All treatment options are personalized, cutting-edge, patient-focused, and performed in a comfortable outpatient setting, including:

Ultrasound Guided Foam Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is a common and effective minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins and spider veins (a mild form of varicose veins). It involves injecting a safe chemical solution directly into the affected vein, causing the vein walls to scar and seal shut, forcing the flow of blood through healthier nearby veins. Within a few weeks, the problem vein fades, improving the appearance of the leg veins as well as treating associated symptoms such as aching, swelling, and burning.

Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency energy is used to heat the diseased vein to seal it off, allowing blood to be rerouted to healthier veins. At Center for Vein Restoration, radiofrequency ablation is performed in a comfortable office setting using local anesthetic. The highly effective procedure takes an hour or less to complete, and patients can return to regular activity immediately with few restrictions.

Laser Ablation

Also known as Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA), this minimally invasive procedure involves using laser energy to heat and close off the affected veins, allowing healthy veins to restore normal blood flow. Laser ablation is effective for medium to large varicose veins in the legs, with a higher success rate and shorter recovery time than traditional surgery. The procedure is well-tolerated and can be performed as an outpatient using only local anesthesia.


A small amount of medical glue is used to close diseased veins quickly and safely. Blood is redirected to healthy nearby veins, providing symptom relief. Studies have shown that the VenaSeal procedure offers results comparable to other procedures. Depending on your unique circumstances, it may be recommended as a substitute for radiofrequency and laser techniques.


Varithena involves the injection of a microfoam called polidocanol into the affected veins, causing them to close and reroute blood flow to healthier veins. The Varithena procedure is gentle, typically requiring only one or two needle sticks, and is well-tolerated, with most patients reporting minimal pain. The treatment is associated with minimal downtime, allowing patients to return to their daily activities with few restrictions quickly. Most insurance plans cover this minimally invasive, non-surgical treatment for varicose veins.

Treatment Options for Your Problem Leg Veins May Vary

The treatment options mentioned above are just an overview of the outpatient procedures offered at Center for Vein Restoration to relieve symptoms related to venous insufficiency, such as varicose veins, spider veins, leg pain and swelling, ulcers, and more. Contact your local CVR location for an evaluation and recommendation about the right treatment option for you.

Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

CVR accepts many insurances, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

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