Varicose veins look unsightly. It’s hard not to feel self-conscious when you have an unusually large vein protruding from your skin. You might want to have them treated so you can feel confident wearing shorts again. However, you should ask, “are varicose veins dangerous” because you might be surprised to know varicose veins are sometimes more than just an aesthetic problem. They can indicate serious issues are occurring.
What to Know About Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged – and possibly twisted – veins that appear dark blue or purple in color. Usually, they arise on the legs or feet as a result of standing, walking, or placing pressure on the veins in your lower extremities. Often, varicose veins don’t cause any symptoms whatsoever. Some individuals, on the other hand, experience issues associated with them such as the following:
- Muscle cramps
- Achy or heavy feeling in the legs
- Worsening pain from standing or sitting
- Burning sensation
- Muscle cramping
- Swelling in the lower legs
- Red discoloration of the skin
Are Varicose Veins Dangerous If Not Treated?
Not all varicose veins are dangerous. Some are merely a cosmetic issue, and treatment is just a preference. The vein may cause tolerable pain or discomfort, but other times a varicose vein requires treatment because it’s an indication of a serious cardiovascular issue. In some cases, varicose veins signify you’re at a higher risk for other cardiovascular complications. Although if you’re not experiencing symptoms from the vein, you still may want to have the vein evaluated.
Once you develop a varicose vein, it’s possible it’ll change over time. Therefore, if you notice anything different about your varicose vein, it’s important to notify your vascular specialist because it may require treatment. Keep in mind, not all varicose veins become dangerous over time.
When Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?
If you’re asking, “are varicose veins dangerous,” the answer is “sometimes.” The true question is, “when are varicose veins dangerous.” Certain conditions including deep vein thrombosis (DVT), supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and lipodermatosclerosis are when varicose veins become serious.
Bleeding Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are near the surface of the skin and sometimes rupture and bleed randomly or as a result of an injury. Veins that leak near the ankle may bleed spontaneously but not cause any tenderness or pain. The varicose veins bleed as a result of the ventricular walls stretching, which causes weakness in them. Although a bleeding varicose vein is usually normal and only occurs on occasion, it’s also possible the vein will shoot blood several feet, which can be life-threatening in some cases.
Varicose Veins and Supraventricular Tachycardia
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a term that classifies various rapid heart rhythm disorders that begin in the upper chamber of the heart. The heart rate speeds up as a result of abnormal electrical impulses in the heart. It affects blood flow in the rest of the body since your heart doesn’t have enough time to fill before it contracts. Common symptoms of the condition include the following:
- Heart pounding
- Heart palpitations
- Fainting or near-fainting episodes
- Fatigue or a lack of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
- Throat tightness
Unfortunately, when you search, “are varicose veins dangerous,” you’ll find a connection between varicose veins and supraventricular tachycardia. The condition causes issues with your cardiovascular system including the veins and arteries since they must work harder to compensate. Treating the varicose veins isn’t enough to prevent serious complications, though. Both the varicose veins and supraventricular tachycardia may need treatment, in particular, the SVT.
Varicose Veins and Deep Vein Thrombosis
You’ll find information regarding varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when you search “are varicose veins dangerous.” The condition occurs when there’s a blood clot in one of the deep veins, which causes it to swell. The deep veins are nestled between the muscles, so they’re not visible to the eye. As the clot worsens, it could break off from its original location and cause a pulmonary embolism. You might notice you have swelling or ulcers on your legs as a result of DVT. The relationship between varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis happens in people who have severe varicose veins.
Varicose Veins and Leg Ulcers
A leg ulcer describes the breakdown of skin in the leg. As the skin breaks down, air and bacteria enter into the tissue, resulting in an ulcer – a painful sore. Most cases of ulcers heal over the course of a week or two. However, ulcers that remain longer or worsen can indicate a more serious problem is happening. For instance, venous conditions lead to ulcers as a result of pressure in the vascular system. In fact, approximately 80 percent of all leg ulcers stem from the veins not working properly.
The veins in your legs carry blood back to your heart to receive oxygen and are only one-way tubes, meaning blood cannot flow back down the legs because of the valves in them. The valves in your legs may become damaged over time as a result of various conditions such as deep vein thrombosis. When a valve inside of a vein becomes damaged, it’s possible the blood will flow the wrong way – meaning it flows down the legs. This leads to high pressure in the veins upon standing, which causes damage to the skin that leads to ulceration.
Lipodermatosclerosis and Venous Disease
Lipodermatosclerosis is an inflammatory condition of the subcutaneous fat in the lower portion of the legs. It may affect one leg or both of them. People who have the condition usually notice swelling above the ankle initially. In its early stage, the condition appears the same as cellulitis. It won’t cause a fever like a bacterial infection though because it’s a skin and connective tissue disease. As the condition progresses, it becomes chronic and causes the skin to harden or thicken. People with lipodermatosclerosis may notice their skin looks red and has an increase in pigmentation near the area. You may have small white scars. It’s possible for lipodermatosclerosis to cause fluid retention in the legs, making them appear larger near the ankles. The condition causes pain that ranges from mild to severe.
Typically, women experience the condition more than men. Usually, it stems from a chronic venous insufficiency or varicose veins, although the connection between varicose veins and lipodermatosclerosis isn’t fully understood. Obesity seems to play a role in the onset of both lipodermatosclerosis and varicose veins. Symptoms of lipodermatosclerosis may appear before any ventricular issues arise.
When to See a Doctor About Varicose Veins
Not all cases of varicose veins require treatment, especially spider veins. However, once the issue is more than just aesthetic, you may need treatment from a vascular specialist. For instance, if you have pain that’s more than just mild, you may benefit from treatment. Not to mention, certain conditions associated with varicose veins can lead to serious complications. In many cases, early diagnosis and treatment may prevent a potentially life-threatening condition such as a pulmonary embolism.
Even if you’re not experiencing any discomfort from an enlarged vein, it may still be a problem. You should take note of the color of the vein and if it changes over time. Colors changes may signify a serious cardiovascular problem is occurring. The skin around a vein tells a lot about the condition of the vein. For instance, inflammation, pigmentation changes and changes in the texture of the skin happen because of the veins.
When evaluating the skin near the vein, always look for ulcers. They can happen as a result of issues with the veins, and the ulcers could also mean you have diabetes or another serious issue. It’s vital to seek the assistance of a specialist to determine the cause of the ulceration.
Typically, your blood vessels are flexible tubes that carry blood to and from the heart. It’s an indication of a problem if you experience hardening in a vein because it could mean there’s a clot that’s preventing blood from flowing normally.
What a Vascular Specialist Will Do
The first step to figuring out if your varicose veins are dangerous is to assess them. Our vein specialists will evaluate the condition of the vein and skin around it. The next step is usually to rule out the presence of an infection such as cellulitis. Doctors often use these tests to monitor the progression of many vascular conditions as well. Venography is an x-ray of the veins that’s part of the diagnostic process of many vascular conditions. It’s possible a specialist will request blood testing, in particular, a coagulation profile, in order to check for clots.
If you have varicose veins and any other symptoms of the aforementioned conditions, you may have a vascular condition that requires close monitoring and treatment.