5 Medical Complications Of Untreated Varicose Veins
Some people who have varicose veins don’t have painful symptoms but they’re concerned about how their legs look. Others have symptoms like swelling, throbbing, pain, and cramping that range in severity from mild to debilitating. And for some others, complications from untreated varicose veins can cause even more serious medical issues.
Varicose veins are chronic and progressive in nature. If left untreated, not only do symptoms worsen but more advanced medical problems can also arise in up to 10% of patients, including:
Discoloration & Hardening Of The Skin
Chronic inflammation in the tissue around varicose veins can cause the skin to become dark and discolored, which is known as hyperpigmentation. When the skin and the fat under the skin are inflamed for years, the tissues become hardened, which is called lipodermatosclerosis.
Varicose veins can rupture and bleed when the skin over the veins becomes thin and can be easily injured by clothing, bedding, nicks or cuts. The most common time to occur is after bathing. Bleeding can seem severe if large amounts of blood had been stored in the varicose veins. While alarming, spontaneous bleeding is painless, is not life-threatening, and can usually be stopped by elevating the leg and applying direct pressure. Any episode of heavy bleeding, however, should be evaluated by a physician.
When the leg veins just below the surface of the skin (superficial) fail to function properly and keep blood pumping towards the heart, the decreased blood flow can cause "phlebitis," or inflammation. Pooled blood inside these inflamed veins may clot and form a hard, red, warm, and tender-to-the-touch lump called a “thrombus.” Superficial thrombophlebitis can be quite painful and may cause localized leg pain and swelling. In most instances, the clots are confined to the superficial veins of the skin and are not dangerous, but this must be determined by a physician. Clots extending to the deep venous system are potentially threatening to both life and limb.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
The more serious condition known as “deep vein thrombosis” is when a clot forms in the deep venous system. In the most severe cases, the clot may break loose from the vein and travel to other parts of the body, which could create a potentially life threatening condition that requires urgent diagnosis and treatment. DVT can be very painful and is often initially noticed as a pulling sensation in the calf of the lower leg. Other symptoms include warmth and redness of the skin and swelling that may extend above the knee.
Venous Leg Ulcers
Venous leg ulcers result from increased inflammation and pressure within the vein which causes the white blood cells to migrate through the vein wall into the skin. This usually occurs on the inside of the ankle. Initially, the skin gradually darkens and thins, and ultimately an ulcer develops. This is considered end-stage vein disease, i.e. the worst case scenario of untreated severe venous insufficiency. Venous ulcers are typically extremely painful, unsightly, and affect mobility and quality of life. Venous leg ulcers can take months to heal and frequently tend to recur if the underlying venous insufficiency is not treated.
While complications of varicose veins may seem alarming, the good news is that the majority of these complications are preventable with early proper diagnosis and treatment. There are many options for treating diseased veins and most procedures are minimally-invasive and are performed in less than an hour in a doctor’s office. It’s important to note that varicose veins typically worsen over time and do not heal on their own. If you’re concerned that your varicose veins may indicate a more serious medical problem or your symptoms are worsening, consult with a vein specialist without further delay.
At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, we help many patients get rid of their varicose veins so they don’t have to worry about developing more serious medical conditions like blood clots or leg ulcers. When our patients learn that the procedures are quick and outpatient, plus typically covered by insurance, they’re glad they didn’t postpone treatment longer.
As the first physician dedicated solely to the treatment of vein disease in Tennessee, Dr. Douglass and East Tennessee Vein Clinic lead the region in experience and expertise of varicose veins. We treat veins differently than other clinics precisely because of this very attention to treating the root cause of each patient’s vein disease. Visit us online at East Tennessee Vein Clinic, or call 866-281-VEIN, or request an appointment online today.