Varicose veins are unsightly on the surface — and when they’re left untreated, they could lead to more serious skin conditions.
Varicose veins are a fairly common condition, affecting as many as 30 million Americans. They’re usually associated with unsightly swelling in the legs and often thought of as just a cosmetic issue. Varicose veins and other venous insufficiencies, however, can lead to skin changes and health conditions aside from enlarged and uncomfortable veins.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the potential skin changes that a venous insufficiency can cause, their effects on your body, and whether they might be a sign of a problem. Here are some things to keep in mind for if you’re noticing changes in the appearance of your skin or veins.
Deep Vs. Superficial Venous Insufficiency
There are two kinds of vein condition: superficial venous insufficiency and deep venous insufficiency. Each can worsen with time, so what starts as a superficial venous insufficiency might later become a more advanced version of the same condition. If skin changes related to vein conditions go untreated for long enough, further damage such as ulcers could occur.
Deep vein problems require more advanced treatment than ordinary varicose or spider veins. Symptoms of a deep vein condition include changes in skin color or texture, swelling, tenderness, and sores. If these appear on the legs in conjunction with varicose or spider veins, consult a specialist for testing.
How Do Varicose Veins Affect The Body?
These skin changes are directly correlated to how varicose veins affect the body. When you have varicose veins, your veins’ valves don’t work properly. Because of this, blood pools in the legs or other extremities rather than flowing through them smoothly, causing the veins themselves to become swollen and distended. This also increases pressure, which makes it more difficult for blood to flow throughout the rest of the body.
Collectively, these issues can lead to redness and inflammation, which can ultimately lead to brown skin discoloration, fluid buildup, and pain when sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time. You may also find that minor injuries bruise or bleed more than they did before, and you may be prone to open sores, bacterial infections, or superficial thrombophlebitis, which is when a blood clot and inflammation appears near the surface of the skin.
Problems Caused by Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can also result in more advanced skin conditions. Dermatitis is among the earliest-developing conditions; it causes fluid and blood cells to leak out of the veins, discolring and irritating the skin in the process. Another condition, lipodermatosclerosis, results in a thickening of the skin, leaving it hard, red, and warm. Similarly, atrophie blanche arises as tissues take over patches of dead skin, leaving grayish white scar along the lower leg.
All of these conditions are precursors to ulceration, as is a long-term venous insufficiency that doesn’t lead to any of them. Ulceration leaves your body with open sores that can’t heal, and so are more susceptible to infection and even gangrene. It is estimated that 70% of leg ulcers in the US are due to venous insufficiency.
Questions? Ask Your Doctor
This is why it’s important to alert your doctor of any skin changes. The sooner your doctor knows, the sooner they can test the skin and determine the best course of action. There are now minimally-invasive procedures considered the gold standard of the medical realm that reduce the appearance of varicose veins and alleviate their symptoms. There are also procedures that help prevent vein conditions from worsening and leading to harder-to-treat issues. Typically, recovery time is brief, and scarring is nearly nonexistent.
If you’re experiencing skin changes, we recommend that you consult your primary care physician, especially if your family has a history of vein conditions. Schedule an appointment with your doctor today could make all the difference in protecting your veins now, and in the future.