Learn about the complications of varicose veins.
Varicose veins are typically not considered problematic and can, often times, be seen as only a cosmetic issue.
Despite many feeling that they are only a cosmetic problem, there are several complications, some being serious, that can occur if varicose veins are left untreated.
List of the Most Common Varicose Vein Complications
1. Cutting of the Vein due to closeness to skin.
Varicose veins are close to the surface of the skin and if there is any trauma to the leg, such as a cut or a scrape, this can lead to cutting the vein. As varicose veins have pooled blood from the stretching of the veins walls and malfunction of the valves, the cut into the vein usually results in a lot of bleeding. Placing pressure on the bleeding area and elevating it above the level of the heart can usually stop the bleeding.
2. Leg Skin Dermatitis (dry, flaky, inflamed)
Different changes in the skin of the legs can also occur if varicose veins if left untreated. The skin on the legs can develop an inflammation, called dermatitis, that leads to dry, flaky skin. The dermatitis is usually permanent once it develops, but is easily treated with lotion or oils.
3. Skin Hardening (permanent condition)
Long term swelling of the legs can also lead to a hardening of the skin. This hardening can be accompanied by discoloration to the skin, such as a red or brown color. Unlike dermatitis, this is typically painful, but like dermatitis, this is also a permanent condition.
4. Leg Ulcers (draining from skin)
As varicose veins have an excess of pressure, some of the fluid from within the veins moves into the surrounding tissue causing swelling. Over time and with increased swelling, the skin may begin to have a clear to straw colored drainage, as the body is trying to remove the fluid from the tissues (leg ulcers).
The excess swelling in the legs leads to improper nutrients reaching the skin, which can make the skin weak. The weakened skin may lead to skin tears, cuts, or leg ulcers, and without receiving proper nutrition, these ulcers may take a long time to heal. With the drainage from the skin due to excess pressure and the formation of ulcers, this also leads to increase risk of infection in the legs.
5. Bloot Clots (pulmonary embolism)
The most serious complications from varicose veins are blood clots. Thrombophlebitis is a superficial blood clot that is found within the varicose vein, due to the pooling of the blood in the vein that leads to a clot formation. The skin usually has a red color, is tender, and the vein feels like a cord. Thrombophlebitis is less serious than a deep venous thrombosis, also called a DVT, but having a thrombophlebitis increases the chance for development of a DVT (deep vein thrombosis).
DVTs occur when blood clots form in the deep veins. DVT causes swelling and redness of the leg, but also significant pain. If not treated, a portion of the clot or the entire clot can break off and travel through the veins and into the lungs, called a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
About Varicose Veins
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are engorged and twisted veins that stretch out over time and have valves that no longer function, or are unable to function due to the stretching of the vein, allowing for pooling of the blood within the vein, leading to more swelling in the vein.
Common Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Common symptoms are swelling of the legs, heaviness, and fatigue in the legs. While these may seem like mild symptoms, but long standing swelling and avoidance of treatment of these varicose vein symptoms can lead to complications.
Talk to a Venous Surgeon - Online and In-Person
If you have varicose veins and suffer from complications or you want to prevent these complications, please contact your doctor to discuss the various treatment options that range from conservative home treatments to procedures that may treat varicose veins.
Dr. Jose Almeida, a board certified surgeon, at the Miami Vein Center is a leading expert in the care of varicose veins. He has years of experience helping patients prevent, treat and manage the complications of varicose veins.