Can You Bleed To Death From Varicose Veins?

One of the more alarming medical complications of varicose veins is spontaneous bleeding when a vein ruptures. When the skin over the veins becomes thin, even a minor irritation or injury can cause the vein to rupture and bleed, and usually the amount of blood is distressing.

In these cases, the bleeding can be caused by something as simple as clothing or bedding rubbing against the leg. Most patients who have experienced bleeding from varicose veins report that it happened during or shortly after bathing. However, others have bled while driving, while sitting in restaurants, and during their sleep.

True Story

Dr. Douglass recalls one vivid memory of a frightening example of blood loss from varicose veins when he was in medical school in Memphis. At the time, he and and his young family were living on the first floor of a 12-story apartment building rent free in exchange for Dr. Douglass being available for emergencies or problems with tenants in the building after hours and on weekends.

One evening around 8pm the building’s thunderously loud alarm went off. Dr. Douglass checked the alarm board and saw that the alarm had been pulled on the 8th floor.

He took the elevator to the 8th floor, and when the doors opened he saw a disturbing amount of blood splattered all over the full length of the hall, with footprints throughout. All the tenants’ doors were closed and no one was peering or looking out their apartment door.

Finally, Dr. Douglass saw one door that was just slightly cracked open. Alarm still blaring, he entered the room and saw blood all over the floor of the entry hall and kitchen and tracked on the linoleum floors into the den.

Dr. Douglass followed the bloody tracks and found an elderly woman, unconscious on the floor in a veritable pool of blood. She had a pulse and was breathing but would not arouse despite his efforts. He called for an ambulance and for help from his wife, who was horrified by the amount of blood on the floors and in the hallway.

Dr. Douglass searched for a bullet or knife wound on the woman but found nothing. Finally, she regained consciousness, opened her eyes, and was able to tell Dr. Douglass that she had been bleeding from her leg.

She had a varicose vein that had begun to bleed very heavily. When she was unable to stop it, she pulled the alarm and ran up and down the hallways, screaming and knocking on doors for someone to help. However, the building was in downtown Memphis in an area where crime was common, so the neighbors were scared to open their doors for fear of what might be in the hallway.

After she had returned to her room, the excessive blood loss caused her to lose consciousness and collapse on the floor where Dr. Douglass found her. Fortunately, she was transported by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated and released home the next day.

While most cases of bleeding from varicose veins aren’t this extreme, they are always frightening. Although fatality from a hemorrhaging vein is exceedingly rare, bleeding can be quite severe as large amounts of blood are stored in the varicose veins.

Bleeding can usually be stopped by elevating the leg and applying direct pressure to the vein. In the case Dr. Douglass described, the patient’s bleeding was aggravated because she remained upright where blood continued to drain down the failed varicose veins. Thankfully, when she passed out she was laying down and blood doesn’t tend to drain down the veins as heavily when the legs are horizontal or elevated.

The best way to avoid bleeding from varicose veins, however, is to have your veins treated before such an event occurs.

The majority of varicose vein complications, such as bleeding, are preventable with proper diagnosis and treatment. There are many options for treating diseased veins and today’s procedures are minimally-invasive and are performed on an outpatient basis in less than an hour.

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 bleeding, skin discoloration, blood clots, or leg ulcers.

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 our dedication to treating the root cause and full extent 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. We are offering free vein screenings for the month of February. Please mention free screenings when making your appointment.

“I just want to thank everyone on staff at East TN. Vein Clinic for making me feel so welcome when I came there. You all are so very nice and sweet to everyone.”

- S. H., Cumberland Gap, TN