Posted on Sep 07, 2023, 4 p.m.
Varicose veins are more than an aesthetic issue; they can significantly affect your daily life. Varicose veins cause discomfort, pain, and, in some cases, serious complications. This article will delve into the symptoms and complications associated with varicose veins.
Understanding Varicose Veins
Before we discuss the impact of varicose veins, let's first understand what they are. Varicose veins(1) are twisted, swollen, and enlarged veins, usually in the legs. These veins occur when the valves inside the veins weaken or fail to function correctly. Vein dysfunction causes blood to flow backward and pool in the veins.
Risk Factors of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can affect anyone. However, certain factors increase the likelihood of developing this condition. These risk factors(2) include:
- Family History
- Sedentary Lifestyle
If you are aware of the risk factors of varicose veins, you can take steps to minimize their impact.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can manifest with a range of symptoms(3). Understanding these symptoms is essential for early diagnosis and effective management.
Visible Bulging Veins
One of the most visible symptoms of varicose veins is the appearance of twisted veins beneath the skin's surface. These veins are often blue, purple, or dark. Their prominence can vary from person to person. While they are commonly considered a cosmetic concern, they can indicate an underlying venous issue.
The presence of visible bulging veins can affect an individual's self-esteem, leading to depression(4). Many people seek varicose vein treatment due to the desire to improve the appearance of their legs and boost their confidence.
Aching or Throbbing Legs
Varicose veins frequently cause discomfort in the legs. Discomfort can range from mild to more pronounced throbbing pain. This discomfort is often exacerbated by prolonged periods of standing or sitting. People with varicose veins often find that their legs feel more comfortable when elevated. Also, gentle exercise that promotes blood circulation can alleviate the aching sensation.
Leg pain severity may worsen as the day progresses or during warmer weather(5) when veins tend to dilate. This pain can significantly impact your ability to carry out daily activities. Also, pain may interfere with work, exercise, and leisure pursuits.
Swelling and Itching
Swelling, medically known as edema, is another common symptom of varicose veins(6). It commonly develops in the lower legs and ankles. The swelling can make it challenging to wear specific clothing and footwear comfortably. It often worsens as the day progresses and tends to improve with leg elevation.
In addition to swelling, varicose veins can cause itching(7) in the affected areas. This itching can be persistent and bothersome. Scratching the itchy skin may lead to skin irritation or even open sores. It's essential to resist the urge to scratch and seek appropriate treatment.
Complications Arising from Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are often considered a benign condition. However, it's essential to be aware of the potential complications they can lead to. These complications can significantly impact your daily life and overall health.
Chronic venous insufficiency can develop in severe cases of untreated varicose veins, leading to skin ulcers. These ulcers typically form near the ankles and are known as venous leg ulcers(8). They occur due to the long-term pooling of blood in the affected veins, which increases pressure in the lower leg. This pressure damages the skin, leading to the development of painful and often non-healing ulcers.
Venous stasis ulcers can be particularly challenging to manage and may require extended medical attention. They can significantly limit mobility and cause discomfort, affecting the ability to carry out daily activities.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Varicose veins can increase the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT)(9). DVT is a medical condition where blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs. If a clot breaks free and travels through the bloodstream, it can lodge in the lungs. This condition causes pulmonary embolism, which is a life-threatening condition.
Individuals with varicose veins should be aware of the signs of DVT(10), which include:
- Sudden leg pain
If any of these symptoms occur, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention. A vein specialist can rule out DVT and prevent potentially serious complications.
While relatively rare, varicose veins can rupture and lead to bleeding(11). This is more likely to happen if the skin covering the veins becomes thin and fragile due to CVI. Bleeding from varicose veins can be alarming and may require immediate medical intervention.
The bleeding can be difficult to control, leading to significant blood loss. People with varicose veins must be cautious. Seek medical advice if they notice any signs of bleeding, like sudden or persistent bleeding from the affected veins.
Diagnosis and Medical Evaluation
Given the potential complications associated with varicose veins, it is crucial to seek medical guidance if you suspect you have this condition or are experiencing symptoms. Vein specialists can:
- Assess the severity of your varicose veins
- Evaluate your risk of complications
- Recommend appropriate treatment options to prevent further issues
Addressing and managing varicose veins early can minimize the risk of these complications.
Varicose veins are not only a cosmetic concern. They can have a substantial impact on your daily life. Understanding the symptoms, and complications is crucial for managing this condition effectively. By taking proactive steps, you can lower the impact of varicose veins and maintain a healthy life.
This article was written for WHN by Arlette Pacheco who is a content writer who pursued a passion for Biology, earning a Ph.D. in Life Sciences. She discovered her love for writing, crafting scientific and divulgation articles, and bridging the gap between science and society.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
Content may be edited for style and length.
References/Sources/Materials provided by:
- Aslam MR, Muhammad Asif H, Ahmad K, Jabbar S, Hayee A, Sagheer MS, Rehman JU, Khalid S, Hashmi AS, Rajpoot SR, Sharif A. Global impact and contributing factors in varicose vein disease development. SAGE Open Med. 2022 Aug doi: 10.1177/20503121221118992.
- Cheng CY. Risk of new-onset major depressive disorder among patients with varicose veins: A multi-institution database study. J Psychosom Res. 2022 Oct;161:111003. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2022.111003.
- Campbell WB, Decaluwe H, Boecxstaens V, MacIntyre JA, Walker N, Thompson JF, Cowan AR. The symptoms of varicose veins: difficult to determine and difficult to study. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2007 Dec;34(6):741-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ejvs.2007.07.012.
- Bihari I, Guex JJ, Jawien A, Szolnoky G. Clinical Perspectives and Management of Edema in Chronic Venous Disease-What about Ruscus? Medicines (Basel). 2022 Jul 25;9(8):41. doi: 10.3390/medicines9080041.
- Takai, Y., Hiramoto, K., Nishimura, Y. et al. Association between itching and the serum zinc levels in patients with varicose veins. J Pharm Health Care Sci 3, 24 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40780-017-0092-9
- Robertson L, Lee AJ, Gallagher K, Carmichael SJ, Evans CJ, McKinstry BH, Fraser SC, Allan PL, Weller D, Ruckley CV, Fowkes FG. Risk factors for chronic ulceration in patients with varicose veins: a case control study. J Vasc Surg. 2009 Jun;49(6):1490-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2009.02.237.
- Li R, Chen Z, Gui L, Wu Z, Miao Y, Gao Q, Diao Y, Li Y. Varicose Veins and Risk of Venous Thromboembolic Diseases: A Two-Sample-Based Mendelian Randomization Study. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2022 Apr 14;9:849027. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2022.849027.
- McCarthy WJ, Dann C, Pearce WH, Yao JS. Management of sudden profuse bleeding from varicose veins. Surgery. 1993 Feb;113(2):178-83. PMID: 8430366.