The blue or purple veins visible under the skin of many older women’s legs may be cosmetically displeasing, but many women who aren’t all that concerned about appearance wonder if they need to be treated. Are there any health risks related to untreated varicose veins?
What are Varicose Veins
Normally, the blood is pumped down into the legs by the heart. In order to get back to the heart to re-circulate, the blood has to fight gravity. The pumping action of the calf muscles while walking and special valves in the veins help the blood leave the legs.
Varicose veins occur when blood isn’t leaving the legs efficiently and the valves start to collapse, allowing blood to pool in the veins in the legs. This pooling causes the veins to enlarge and become visible.
Many individuals have no symptoms at all related to varicose veins. Others experience discomfort, swelling, and itching. Individuals with no or only minor symptoms do not need to have treatment if they choose not to.
There are no serious medical complications associated with asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic varicose veins. Simple home treatments such as wearing compression stockings, avoiding standing for long hours, and taking a walk every day in flat heel shoes can be effective.
In severe cases of varicose veins, there may be pain, swelling, and changes of the skin. Sores and skin breakdown may develop, which can lead to infections. Even in severe cases of varicose veins, there are no medical consequences to not treating the veins.
However, untreated varicose veins can lead to a severely impaired quality of life, and individuals troubled by their symptoms should consider treatment. There are many minimally invasive highly effective treatments available today.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
The biggest medical concern with varicose veins is mistaking symptoms of deep vein thrombosis for symptoms of varicose veins. Deep vein thrombosis is a life-threatening emergency. It is caused by the development of a blood clot in a vein deep inside the leg.
Varicose veins are superficial and are not involved in deep vein thrombosis. However, the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis are pain and swelling, exactly the same as those of moderate to severe varicose veins.
An individual who suffers from varicose veins may attribute the increased pain and swelling from deep vein thrombosis to their condition.
One clue to differentiate the two is that varicose vein symptoms usually get worse after standing and recede during rest, whereas deep vein thrombosis often occurs after lengthy periods of not moving.