Diabetes and Vein Disease: How Can They Affect You?

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What to know about diabetes and vein disease

Diabetes affects more than 30 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This equates to approximately 10% of the population. Approximately one-third of these people are still undiagnosed, putting them at a higher risk of developing problems. Even more shocking is the fact that 84.1 million adults (or 33.9 percent) have pre-diabetes.1

Do you wonder if varicose veins can develop as a result of diabetes? Is there a link between varicose veins and diabetes?

True, diabetes can have a wide-ranging impact. Blood sugar levels that rise too high can harm organs and weaken blood arteries. The lining of blood vessels can be compromised, allowing plaque to develop. It’s one of the reasons diabetics are more likely to develop peripheral artery disease, which can cause leg pain when walking.

Although diabetes does not cause varicose veins, diabetes may increase the risk of varicose veins. Obesity raises the risk of both illnesses.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a complication of diabetes that raises the incidence of varicose veins. The tiny one-way valves in the leg veins don’t work properly in CVI, thus blood returning to the heart from the legs can pool in the veins due to gravity. Leg pain, cramps, and swelling can result from this weakening and stretching of the veins.

Fortunately, following a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing diabetes, type 2. This is especially important because diabetes can increase your chances of developing other, more severe health conditions. Some of these include vascular diseases such as retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, atherosclerosis, stroke, and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

The bottom line is that diabetes and vein disease often go hand-in-hand. Because you should do whatever you can to lower your risks, let’s begin with some education. Here’s what you need to know about diabetes, vascular disease, and how a healthy lifestyle can help you live longer.

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.

Diabetes and Vein Disease

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to many health problems, some potentially fatal. Vascular disease ––which is any condition that affects your circulatory system including arteries, veins and lymph vessels―is one of the more severe complications. But why do diabetics suffer from vascular damage in the first place?

The reason is relatively straightforward. When diabetes is not properly controlled, the result is too much glucose circulating in the blood. This damages the blood vessels, which leads to various vascular diseases.

Diabetic vascular diseases include:

Varicose Veins

Diabetes does not cause varicose veins. Spider veins, which are also caused by faulty valves, are the same. Varicose veins and spider veins are complicated disorders that are influenced by a variety of factors such as age, genetics, and hormone changes. Women are more likely than men to develop them.

Getting varicose vein treatment as soon as feasible is often a good idea. Venous symptoms might worsen over time, making treatment more challenging. You should also be aware that if you don’t treat your varicose veins, you run the risk of developing serious health problems like blood clots and venous ulcers (open, non-healing sores).

Our vein specialists at USA Vein Clinics provide outpatient, minimally invasive varicose vein treatment that can provide instant relief from uncomfortable symptoms. Our procedures take less than an hour, from start to finish. You can then return home and resume most of your regular routines.


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.


Unfortunately, diabetic neuropathy is quite 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 occur as the result of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes. It can also lead to strokes.

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 fats, cholesterol, and other substances form a plaque within the arteries that restricts blood flow. This plaque can burst and cause blood clots.

Symptoms like pain and blood vessel ruptures, usually develop in the middle years.


Are you aware that strokes kill about 140,000 Americans a year? If you are diabetic, you are about 1.5 times more likely to have one. 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, immediate medical treatment is essential. Please call 911 for help.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Another diabetic vascular disease is called Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). PAD develops when blood vessels in the legs narrow or become blocked. This causes less blood flow to your legs and feet. It 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 help keep leg veins healthy and keep blood flowing back to the heart.

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Watch Your Weight
  • Get moving
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take your medicine
  • Visit your doctor regularly

Early detection and early treatment of CVI or vein disease is best practice for improved circulatory health and preventing future complications especially in diabetics.

Vein Disease and Treatment at USA Vein Clinics

Vein disease, or venous insufficiency, is a common health condition. It occurs when veins are unable to efficiently transport blood from the legs back to the heart. Vein disease can cause pain, achiness, swelling, itchiness, and tiredness in the legs. It can also result in the development of painful, unsightly varicose veins and spider veins.

If you are suffering from vein disease symptoms, our vein specialists at USA Vein Clinics are available to help. Our nationwide network of 100 + convenient treatment locations offer effective, minimally-invasive vein treatment. You don’t need surgery to find relief. Our non-surgical treatments are performed on-site and can take between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on the number of veins involved.

To discover which treatment is best for you, please contact us at 888.768.3467 or schedule an appointment online. For your safety and convenience, you can also opt for an initial telemedicine consultation with one of our vein experts.

  1. Diabetes Statistics | NIDDK (nih.gov)

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