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10 Complications Of Varicose Veins You Need To Know

Varicose veins occur due to the malfunction of the valves which causes blood to accumulate in these veins under the effect of gravity.

10 Complications Of Varicose Veins You Need To Know

Varicose veins are the enlarged tortuous veins that appear in the legs. Varicose veins occur due to the malfunction of the valves which causes blood to accumulate in these veins under the effect of gravity. Although the varicose veins are very commonly seen in the general population, it is commonly neglected, and patients often land up into complications. Here are the 10 things how varicose veins, if neglected can affect you in long term.

1. Leg swelling

As the veins bulge due to pooling of blood, the pressure within them builds up and blood seeps into the surrounding soft tissues. This causes swelling and heaviness in the legs. The swelling is pronounced after prolonged standing or sitting, often at the end of the day and reduces after elevating the legs.

2. Leg pain

Varicose veins cause pain in the legs and cramps in the calf muscles as the blood accumulates in the damaged veins. The pain is temporarily relieved by elevating the legs or gentle massage of the legs.

3. Restless legs

Restless leg refers to constant urge to move the legs. About 30% of patients suffering from varicose veins have feeling of restless legs, especially at night when in bed.

4. Unsightly spider veins

Spide veins are small, damaged veins that appear as blue, purple or red coloured lines, webs or branches on the legs. These are typically painless and may not cause any health problems. However, spider veins can be cosmetically disfiguring, and some people may wish to get them treated.

5. Skin discoloration and thickening

The red blood cells seeping into the skin from the dilated varicose veins cause accumulation of hemoglobin and its degradation products in the skin. This results in chronic inflammation and causes dark and discoloured skin. The skin may become woody and firm after few years.

6. Skin ulcers

As the skin of a patient of varicose veins is unhealthy, it is prone to develop wounds or ulcers. These ulcers take long time to heal or do not heal completely as the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the affected skin is hampered due to stasis of venous blood flow. The ulcers are quite painful and require prolonged nursing care.

7. Skin infection

Bacteria that are present in the normal skin can infect the swelling or ulcers in the legs, resulting in a condition called cellulitis. The legs can become excessively swollen, tense and red. If the infection is not controlled with medications, it can be life threatening, especially in the elderly.

8. Superficial thrombophlebitis

As the blood in the varicose veins is stagnated, it is more prone to form clots.

Up to 5% of people with varicose veins can suffer from blood clots. The thrombosed vein becomes hard, painful and warm to touch.

9. Deep vein thrombosis

In about one fourth of patients with clots in the varicose veins, the clots can develop in the deeper veins also. The leg can become swollen, red and painful. The clots in the deeper veins may break off and travel to the arteries in the lungs, causing pulmonary thromboembolism, a life-threatening condition. Deep vein thrombosis is thus a serios medical condition that requires immediate treatment.

10. Bleeding

The blood in the dilated varicose veins of the skin in under tremendous pressure. If there is small sharp cut or hit to the skin, there can be significant bleeding from these veins. If there is a blunt injury, the blood can accumulate in the skin causing bruising or bluish discoloration.

(Dr. Santosh B. Patil is a Consultant Neuro and Vascular Interventional Radiologist at The Vein Center)

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