When Are Varicose Veins More Than Just a Cosmetic Concern?

If you have varicose veins, you’ve got a lot of company. More than a third of adult Americans have varicose veins, and while just about anyone can get varicose veins (even teens!), they tend to occur more often as we get older. 

Twisted, purplish, and swollen, varicose veins are downright unattractive. But their looks are just one reason to have varicose veins treated. These veins can be a sign of more serious medical problems that can take a big toll on your life and your health.

At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, Ashish Pal, MD, FACC, offers state-of-the-art varicose vein treatments at our locations in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida. Here’s how to tell when it’s time to have your varicose veins evaluated and treated.

Varicose vein basics

Your heart plays a big role pumping blood throughout your body. But it doesn’t do it alone. Inside your veins, tiny valves open and close in quick succession, maintaining the current that keeps your blood moving in the right direction.

If those valves malfunction, the blood can slow down and pool behind the valves, creating the twisted, bulging veins we know as varicose veins.

Varicose veins can occur anywhere, but they’re more common in the legs. Considering the blood in your legs has the most distance to travel to make it back to your heart, that’s not too surprising. What is surprising to lots of people is that varicose veins aren’t just a cosmetic issue. 

They’re a clear indication that your circulation isn’t working the way it should — and that could signal a more serious underlying problem.

More than cosmetic

Varicose veins can cause symptoms like heaviness or fatigue in your legs, burning, or itching, but those are just a few of the problems associated with varicose veins. Sometimes, they’re a sign of an undiagnosed vascular problem, or they might put you at risk for serious problems.

Swelling

In addition to pain and heaviness in your legs, varicose veins can cause swelling. That’s because as they interfere with normal circulation, fluid can back up in your ankles, feet, and lower legs, and the skin can become stretched, shiny, and fragile. 

Swollen legs and feet make even walking painful, and they also make you more prone to other problems, like stasis dermatitis and venous ulcers.

Stasis dermatitis

When blood and other fluids collect under the skin, it can cause an itchy condition that looks like eczema. Sometimes, the skin takes on a deeper brownish tinge from the fluid that’s collected. Stasis dermatitis makes your skin fragile, so sores and bleeding are more likely to occur.

Venous ulcers

Venous ulcers are painful sores, and they’re the most common complication of varicose veins. Untreated varicose veins can eventually cause changes in your skin, making the skin thinner and more fragile. 

Scratching or even bumping the area can cause the skin to break and tear, resulting in a hard-to-heal ulcer. Since ulcers tend to be deeper than normal sores, they’re associated with a higher risk of serious infection, as well.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

A thrombosis is a blood clot, and with DVT, a clot forms in the deeper veins of your legs. Varicose veins can be a sign of a DVT, and without treatment, the clot can break off and travel to your lungs, resulting in a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. 

Superficial thrombophlebitis

This condition occurs when a blood clot forms closer to the skin’s surface. In addition to causing pain, swelling, and other problems, superficial clots can indicate you have a deeper clot, as well.

Varicose veins aren’t pretty, but the cosmetic effects are a relatively minor problem when you consider the far more serious underlying issues that could be going on. 

If you have varicose veins or spider veins, call Vein & Cardiovascular Center or use our online booking form to schedule a vascular evaluation with Dr. Pal.

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