Are Varicose Veins a Health Concern?

Are Varicose Veins a Health Concern?

Most people don't seek treatment for varicose veins until they're tired of being embarrassed by the ugly, bulging veins or they start having symptoms like leg pain. But with or without symptoms, varicose veins are always a red flag warning that you could be headed for serious health concerns.

Unfortunately, the condition that's responsible for varicose veins, venous insufficiency, can also cause other health conditions, ranging from annoying skin conditions to nonhealing leg ulcers and life-threatening blood clots.

Our team at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute encourages everyone with varicose veins to get an evaluation. That way, you can be sure you don’t have early signs of complications and learn more about in-office treatments that get rid of your veins and eliminate venous insufficiency at the same time. 

About venous insufficiency

Venous insufficiency occurs when one-way valves in your leg veins fail to do their job. Instead of ensuring that blood flows up the veins (toward your heart), the damaged valves allow some of the blood to reflux (flow backward).

As a result, the extra blood doesn't return to your heart, which is why the condition is called venous insufficiency. The refluxing blood builds up in the leg vein, engorging the vein and causing twisted, varicose veins.

If the refluxing blood only caused unsightly veins, you wouldn't need to worry. But venous insufficiency does two things that lead to problems. First, it slows down blood flow. And second, it causes high pressure in the veins in your lower leg.

Let’s look at the health conditions resulting from these two problems:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

About two-thirds of patients who develop a DVT have underlying chronic venous insufficiency. DVT is a dangerous condition that has a two-way relationship with venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency raises your risk of DVT, and having DVT increases your chances of developing venous insufficiency in the future.

Blood clots may develop when blood flow slows down. When the clot occurs in a deep vein in the center of your leg, you have a deep vein thrombosis.

DVT causes symptoms such as:

DVT turns into a medical emergency if the clot breaks free, travels through your blood vessels, and gets stuck in your lungs. This condition, called pulmonary embolism, blocks blood flow and rapidly increases the pressure in your heart

Non-healing leg ulcers

Nonhealing leg ulcers, called venous stasis ulcers, are another serious complication of venous insufficiency. The high pressure of venous insufficiency forces fluid out of your lower leg veins.

The fluid breaks down your skin and creates a type of wound called an ulcer. Venous stasis ulcers begin as shallow, painful areas that can develop anywhere on your lower leg, but often occur near the ankle.

These ulcers are dangerous because they don't heal on their own. Even with intensive wound care, they can take nine months or longer to get better. Without treatment, the ulcer keeps enlarging, becomes inflamed, and puts you at risk for a serious skin or bone infection.

Skin conditions

Venous insufficiency causes three types of skin changes that serve as warning signs of advanced venous disease. 

You may develop:

Stasis dermatitis

As fluid goes from your veins into the surrounding tissues, you can develop an inflammatory skin condition with symptoms like redness, scaling, and itching.

Hyperpigmentation

You may develop a reddish-brown skin discoloration as pigments in the iron-containing cells in your blood break down and infiltrate your skin.

Lipodermatosclerosis

If you develop lipodermatosclerosis, the skin in your lower leg thickens, hardens, and turns leathery. The area also becomes inflamed, painful, and itchy, and often affects your entire lower leg.

If you're ready to get rid of varicose veins along with venous insufficiency, call Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute or book an appointment with us online today.

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