Vascular Disease, Varicose Veins, and Diabetes: How Can They Affect You?

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What to know about diabetes and vein disease

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Vascular disease affects blood vessels throughout the body. Vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency, is one form of vascular disease. Results across studies suggest that up to 17% of men and 40% of women in the general population may experience chronic venous insufficiency. This is the underlying cause of varicose veins and spider veins.

Another common health condition, diabetes, affects the way your body turns food into energy. Diabetes impacts an estimated 37 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1]. This equates to roughly 11% of the population. Approximately one-third of these people are still undiagnosed and untreated, putting them at a higher risk of developing serious health issues.

Diabetes is a significant risk factor for vein disease and other forms of vascular disease. Below, we discuss diabetic vascular disease and vein disease caused by diabetes, along with recommendations for what you can do to improve your health.

If you experience signs of diabetic vein problems, we recommend consulting a vein specialist.

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What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that impacts the way your body metabolizes glucose or sugar. Glucose is a crucial energy source that is used throughout the body. There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes –– also known as insulin-dependent diabetes –– is often diagnosed in childhood. For those affected with this condition, the pancreas produces little or no insulin –– making it necessary to take insulin daily.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, making up 90 to 95 percent of all cases. Type 2 diabetics either don’t produce enough insulin or become resistant to their own over time. In either case, these individuals need to receive insulin through medication. Lifestyle modifications are often helpful to help gain control of high blood sugar levels.

A third type, gestational diabetes, can occur during pregnancy. It often resolves soon after birth, though affected individuals may be at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

What Is Vein Disease?

Vein disease, a type of vascular disease, occurs when tiny one-way vein valves begin to malfunction. This can be a result of many different factors, including age, genetics, obesity, inactivity, poor diet, smoking, and prolonged periods of sitting or standing.

Vein disease can cause blood to flow slowly or to pool, most often in the legs, ankles, and feet. This may eventually lead to the development of varicose veins and spider veins, along with painful and uncomfortable leg symptoms.

Diabetes, Vein Disease, and Vascular Disease

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to many health problems, some potentially fatal. Vascular disease, which refers to any condition that affects your circulatory system including arteries, veins, and lymph vessels, is one of the more severe complications.

When diabetes is not controlled, the result is too much glucose circulating in the blood. Over time, this damages blood vessels, leading to vascular diseases, including vein disease.

Some of the many diabetic vascular diseases include:

Varicose Veins

Although diabetes does not directly cause varicose veins, it is one of many risk factors for their development. Other risk factors include age, sex, genetics, and lifestyle.

Varicose veins can lead to painful and uncomfortable venous symptoms like leg swelling, cramping, itching, and fatigue. These diabetic veins can also place you at increased risk for dangerous health conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and venous ulcers.


This diabetic eye disease has two variations: diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema (DME). Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in diabetics and also increases the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs as a result of changes to blood vessels in the retina. Vision can become distorted; in severe cases, you can go blind.

DME involves swelling of a specific area of the retina called the macula. This condition often goes unnoticed until vision is already affected. Symptoms of DME include recurring floating spots and blurred vision.


Another diabetic vascular disease is nephropathy, which is a form of kidney disease. When an individual’s blood sugar is too high, the blood vessels in their kidneys can become damaged. When this occurs, the kidneys are unable to filter waste from the blood effectively. This can lead to kidney failure.

Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all risk factors for developing nephropathy. If you are at risk for nephropathy, keep an eye out for symptoms like swelling in the legs and feet. Your doctor may also recommend regular urine tests to look for potential signs of trouble.


Diabetic neuropathy is common, affecting about half of diabetics. It tends to occur over long periods when blood sugar levels are not controlled.

High blood sugar can damage nerve fibers in the body –- especially in the hands and feet. As a result, people with neuropathy often suffer from pain and numbness in their extremities. They may also develop issues affecting their digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels, and heart health.


This potential diabetes complication can develop when there is damage to the endothelium. The endothelium is the cell lining within the walls of your arteries. Atherosclerosis can result from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes. It can also place you at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Although often considered a heart issue, damage from atherosclerosis can occur elsewhere in the body. Regardless of location, the same process occurs. A buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances form a plaque within the arteries that restricts blood flow.


Stroke is the leading cause of death in the US, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of stroke. Strokes often occur due to blood clots that block blood flow to the brain. This reduction of blood flow damages brain tissue and can cause severe and ongoing problems with mobility, cognition, and speech.

The warning signs of a stroke include:

  • Weakness or numbness on one side of your body
  • Sudden confusion or disorientation
  • Speech problems
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble walking
  • Vision issues
  • A severe headache

If you believe you or someone you know may be having a stroke, emergency medical treatment is essential. Call 911 immediately.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) develops when arteries leading to the legs narrow or become blocked. This can impact mobility and impact quality of life. PAD also puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

Your risk of developing PAD increases if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Smoke
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Don’t exercise
  • Are over the age of 50
  • Have a personal or family history of heart disease, heart attacks, or strokes

How To Reduce Your Risks For Diabetes and Varicose Veins

Many of the best practices for managing diabetes can also benefit the health of your veins.

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Visit your doctor regularly

Early detection and treatment of vein disease is best practice for improved circulatory health. It can also help prevent future complications, especially in diabetics.

Vein Disease Treatment at USA Vein Clinics

If you suffer from vein disease caused by diabetes, our vein specialists at USA Vein Clinics are available to help. Our nationwide network of over 100 clinic locations offers a range of minimally invasive, office-based vein treatments. This approach can quickly alleviate painful venous symptoms, reduce your risk of additional diabetic vein problems, and improve your quality of life. Our non-surgical treatments typically take under an hour, from start to finish.

To discover which treatment is best for you, please contact us at 888.768.3467 or schedule an appointment online. We also offer convenient virtual doctor visits.

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[1] “National Diabetes Statistics Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 18, 2022.

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