While many people seek treatment initially for the unsightly appearance of varicose veins, they often are oblivious to the potential health hazards if vein disease is left untreated. Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from varicose veins most commonly found in the legs. There are two main complications that can arise from varicose veins:
- Blood Clots – Varicose veins are caused by blood pooling in the veins. The pooling often results in a blood clot in a vein close to the skin surface. These superficial clots commonly cause pain and swelling. If a superficial clot is not treated, it may grow and move into a deep vein. Such a clot, known as deep vein thrombosis, can suddenly break loose and travel to other parts of the body including the lungs, leading to a pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening blockage. Most blood clots can be discovered by ultrasound and treated before serious problems develop.
- Ulcers – An extreme progression of varicose veins can result in the development of painful ulcers on the skin around the diseased veins, often near the ankles. Long-term pressure in the veins leads to a fluid buildup causing hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the skin, which is often a precursor to potentially debilitating venous ulcers. These wounds can be very painful and difficult to heal.
In summary, varicose veins are not just a cosmetic concern. It is important to treat varicose veins early to slow the progression and prevent more serious health concerns.