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Varicose Veins

What Complications Can Varicose Veins Cause?

Last modified: 
14/06/2012 - 13:09

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

In most cases, varicose veins cause few symptoms, however, occasionally, they may cause complications associated with the condition.

Bleeding

The thin-walled varicose veins protrude just under the skin. Bumping or scratching a large varicose vein may cause severe bleeding. Varicose veins bleed more than healthy veins because of abnormally high pressure within the damaged veins.

Need To Know:

If you have a varicose vein that is bleeding, lie down immediately, raise the leg, and apply direct pressure with a clean cloth. The bleeding will then stop. See your doctor for treatment.

Phlebitis

Phlebitis means inflammation of a vein. A form of phlebitis that sometimes affects varicose veins is superficial thrombophlebitisan inflammation of a vein just below the surface of the skin, which results from a small blood clot.

When clots form in veins near the surface of the body, swelling and redness appear along the affected area of the vein. This condition is not considered life threatening, as opposed to deep vein thrombosis.

Treatment for most cases of thrombophlebitis consists of simply relieving the discomfort. It does not require any specific therapy. Warm compresses over the involved vein and anti-inflammatory medication is usually all that is required.

The most serious consequence of phlebitis is the development of postphlebitic leg. This condition is also called stasis syndrome. It is usually the result of long-term phlebitis involving deeper veins. The involved area in a postphlebitic leg may become discolored, scaly, and swollen, with hardened areas beneath the skin and the development of painful ulcers.

Leg Ulcers

Ulcers (open sores) are one of the most troublesome complications of varicose veins. They tend to occur most often in the elderly.

  • The appearance of ulcers calls for consultation with your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Treatment often requires several weeks (and often many months) of professional care before an ulcer heals.
  • Chances of recurrence are high.

Leg ulcers also may be caused by arterial diseases, such as atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries in which fatty material is deposited in the vessel wall, resulting in narrowing and eventual impairment of blood flow). In these instances, there is usually an association with poor circulation and lack of pulses in the leg, none of which usually occurs with varicose veins.

In addition, ulcers can be the result of unhealed leg injury. Or they can be a complication of diabetes.

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.