Varicose Veins and Blood Clots: What’s the Connection?
Understanding your vein health is the first step in distinguishing between cosmetic changes in your veins and blood vessels and recognizing when you should share your concerns with your medical team or vein specialist. Varicose veins are linked to various health issues that could require medical attention and put you at increased risk of developing blood clots. It’s essential to know the difference between a cosmetic concern and severe symptoms.
By empowering yourself with knowledge about your varicose veins and their connection to blood clots, you can make informed choices and take a proactive role in your medical care and, most importantly, your health.
Varicose Veins and Your Venous Health
Varicose veins are a common vascular condition. While varicose veins aren’t always problematic, it’s essential to pay attention to any skin changes or shifts in size, shape, or new painful symptoms surrounding your varicose veins, as that can indicate a difference in your vein health.
Varicose veins are veins that have become damaged, enlarged, twisted, and often discolored. They can occur anywhere in the body but are most commonly found in the legs due to the increased pressure on the lower extremities when standing or walking.
Symptoms of varicose veins include but aren’t limited to:
Pain: Discomfort, aching, or a “heavy” feeling in the legs and feet is often reported, especially after prolonged periods of sitting or standing.
Skin Changes: Over time, varicose veins can cause skin changes, including darkening of the skin, inflammation, or the development of ulcers near the affected veins.
Leg Cramps: Patients with varicose veins commonly report leg cramps in the surrounding muscles at night.
Healthy veins have one-way bicuspid valves that help blood flow efficiently from the extremities to the heart. When these valves weaken or become damaged, they can fail to prevent the backward flow of blood; the blood pooling in the veins causes them to inflame, enlarge, and become varicose.
Several factors contribute to the development of varicose veins, including:
Genetics: If you have a family history of varicose veins or co-occurring diagnostics like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, you’re more susceptible to developing varicose veins.
Pregnancy: Increased blood volume during pregnancy puts pressure on the vein walls and valves, which can lead to varicose veins. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause make women more likely to develop varicose veins than men.
Lifestyle: Individuals who smoke, have a high alcohol intake, or those with a more sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop varicose veins.
Age: Our vascular system breaks down as we age; this causes the vein walls and valves to deteriorate over time.
Injury or trauma to the leg: An injury or trauma to the leg can impact the vascular system, causing weakened vein walls and valves.
Blood pooling in the veins due to damage to the vascular walls and valves is a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency, which can contribute to the formation of blood clots.
What Is A Blood Clot?
A blood clot, or thrombus, occurs when blood cells clump together to form a solid mass. They can occur in any vein, but they are most common in the deep veins of the legs. Blood clots are a normal and vital part of the vascular process, preventing excess bleeding when injured.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) arises when an unusually formed blood clot develops within the veins of the lower body, including the legs and pelvis. These clots have the potential to partially or entirely obstruct blood flow within the affected vein.
When a DVT dislodges from the vein wall and migrates through the bloodstream to other body regions, it can result in a severe medical emergency called a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE can block blood flow to the lungs or the brain, potentially leading to a stroke.
Risk factors for developing blood clots include:
Immobility: Sitting or lying down for prolonged periods can increase the risk of blood pooling and forming clots.
Surgery: Patients recovering from surgery have an increased risk of forming blood clots.
Pregnancy: Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing a blood clot.
Lifestyle: Smoking and being inactive can put you at risk for blood clots.
Medication: Some medications, such as birth control or hormone replacement therapy, increase the risk of developing a blood clot.
Obesity: Carrying extra weight increases the pressure on the vascular system of the leg, causing veins to become swollen and weaken.
Injury or trauma: Injuries that cause damage to the vascular structures can increase your risk of blood clots.
Varicose veins: Varicose veins are weakened, damaged veins that allow blood to pool and slow down circulation, increasing the risk of blood clots.
Varicose Veins and Blood Clot Risks
Varicose veins and blood clots are connected by chronic venous insufficiency. When blood flow is reduced due to weakened vein walls and damaged bicuspid valves, blood can pool and accumulate in the veins, increasing the risk of blood clots forming. This impedes the natural flow of blood back to the heart. This stagnant blood is more prone to clotting as thick blood in varicose veins may undergo changes that promote clot formation.
Both varicose veins and blood clots share the same contributing factors: weight gain, sedentary lifestyle, gender, and more.
Managing Varicose Veins and Reducing the Risk of Blood Clots
Varicose veins don’t go away independently, but you can take active steps to improve your vascular health and decrease your risk of developing blood clots. Treatment options range from lifestyle changes to minimally invasive medical procedures to improve your blood flow by sealing off the damaged vein.
Lifestyle changes and self-care treatments for varicose veins include:
Exercise Regularly: Physical activity can improve blood flow and strengthen the calf muscles, which help push blood back to the heart.
Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the pressure on your veins.
Avoid prolonged sitting or standing: Take breaks to move around and encourage better blood flow.
Elevation: Elevating your legs can help reduce swelling and improve circulation.
Compression Stockings: Compression stockings can help relieve heavy aching by applying pressure to the extremity, minimizing swelling, and increasing circulation to the legs, feet, and ankles.
Minimally Invasive Treatment for Varicose Veins
The vein experts at Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) have your comfort and convenience in mind when recommending minimally invasive treatment for varicose veins. Our outpatient treatments allow our patients go home on the same day with only minor restrictions. We want you back on your feet and enjoying life, free from the discomfort and worry caused by varicose veins.
Treatment options at Center for Vein Restoration:
Varithena: Minimally invasive, the Varithena procedure utilizes a tiny catheter to inject a small quantity of microfoam into the damaged vein to collapse it, redirecting the blood supply to nearby healthy vessels.
Ultrasound-guided Guided Sclerotherapy: This minimally invasive approach utilizes ultrasound guidance to introduce a foam medication known as a sclerosant into the damaged vein, triggering a response that leads to the closure of the vein. The body naturally absorbs the collapsed vein, redirecting blood flow towards healthier veins.
VenaSeal: VenaSeal is a minimally invasive approach to removing varicose veins. Using a unique medical adhesive effectively seals off varicose veins, redirecting the blood supply to the healthy veins, and is provided in-office.
ClariVein: ClariVein is a fast office-based treatment. Minimally invasive, the ClariVein procedure administers a sclerosing agent into the vein with a catheter, closing off the varicose vein.
Laser Ablation: Laser ablation is recommended for patients with substantial varicose veins. As a modern alternative to outdated “vein stripping,” laser ablation involves inserting a small fiver into the affected vein and gently applying heat, causing the damaged vein to seal. The body absorbs the closed vein, and the blood supply is rerouted to healthy veins.
Talk To Your Vein Specialist About Varicose Veins and Blood Clots
Talk to your vein specialist if you’re noticing any changes in the veins on your lower extremities or if you’re having pain or discomfort. Contact Center for Vein Restoration today and request an appointment with our skilled vein specialists to explore your options for healthier veins and decreased risk of blood clots. With more than 110 vein clinic locations across the United States, look for a CVR center near you.
You can reach us at 1-800-FIX-LEGS (1-833-468-0797) to speak with a Patient Services Representative or conveniently schedule your consultation online at a nearby CVR clinic. We accept various insurance providers, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.