Many people – even perhaps your own doctor- think varicose veins are trivial, cosmetic and of no particular health importance. Not so. Here are 5 serious complications of varicose veins, you should know about.
Varicose veins don’t get better, in fact they get worse as time goes by and if you have varicose veins for long enough, it is quite likely you will suffer one or more significant complication.
- First is phlebitis. This is a condition characterised by inflammation and clotting within the varicose veins. The area becomes hot, red and painful. The clot within the vein can spread very quickly into the deep veins causing a deep vein thrombosis. Everyone with suspected phlebitis should have duplex ultrasound scan of the veins, firstly, to confirm the diagnosis and then to guide the treatment. Some people with phlebitis require blood-thinning medication to prevent DVT or to prevent fatal pulmonary embolism. So it is an important complication.
- The second important complication of varicose veins is varicose eczema. This is a condition of the skin that it indicates that the skin is damaged and deprived of nutrients and oxygen. It typically occurs on the lower leg and the area is vulnerable to break down. Sometimes, varicose eczema can in fact occur with so called “hidden or deep varicose veins”. So if varicose eczema is suspected, even if there are no varicose veins, a scan should be performed to check the vein circulation and to look for hidden varicose veins.
- Thirdly, varicose veins can bleed. Fortunately this is not very common. However, big bulging varicose veins on the lower leg are vulnerable and they are under very high pressure, so if they are injured, bleeding can be very serious. In such cases, leg elevation and the application of direct pressure will usually stop the bleeding.
- Fourthly, varicose veins are a risk factor for DVT. The presence of severe varicose veins and reflux increases the risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis in certain situations such as a long haul flight or admission to hospital.
- Lastly, varicose veins and venous reflux are a major causes of leg ulcers. 4 out of every 5 leg ulcers are caused by vein problems and early treatment of varicose veins can prevent ulceration.
So, there are the 5 important complications of varicose veins – phlebitis, varicose eczema, bleeding, increased risk of DVT and leg ulcers.