Cardiovascular Risk, Thrombosis
Read Time: 5 mins

Problems that occur when varicose veins go untreated

Authors: Dr. Yan Katsnelson, Founder, CEO, USA Vein Clinics Published Online: July 1st 2022

Dr Yan Katsnelson, Founder, CEO, USA Vein Clinics

Dr Yan Katsnelson is an entrepreneur, highly skilled cardiac surgeon, business owner, and philanthropist. He is the founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics, which is part of USA Clinics Group – the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vascular Centers, and USA Oncology Centers. Dr Katsnelson has established himself as a strong advocate for accessible, affordable, and compassionate healthcare services.  Dr Katsnelson is considered a leader in expanding minimally invasive options that provide high-quality care using the latest technology in the most advanced facilities to the communities that need it most. 

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that bulge above the surface of the skin. Although these visible veins can occur anywhere on the body, they most commonly impact the legs, ankles, and feet. It is important to understand that varicose veins are more than just a cosmetic issue. They are a sign of underlying vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency.

When left untreated, vein disease can lead to painful symptoms, increase the risk of several dangerous health conditions, and impact quality of life. Below, we cover how varicose veins develop, common venous symptoms, and potential complications of leaving varicose veins untreated. We also discuss a range of minimally invasive, outpatient varicose vein treatments.  

What is vein disease?

To better understand vein disease, it may be helpful to review the circulatory system. This essential system consists of the heart and three types of blood vessels: arteries, veins, and capillaries. Arteries are responsible for transporting oxygenated blood throughout the body, while veins are responsible for carrying depleted blood back to the heart for reoxygenation. Capillaries are the body’s smallest vessels, connecting arteries with veins. 

Vein disease occurs when tiny, one-way vein valves begin to malfunction. This can cause blood to move slowly or pool in place, most often in the lower extremities, instead of being efficiently transported back to the heart. As this slow-moving blood causes the veins to expand over time, varicose veins, spider veins, and other venous issues can eventually develop. 

What are common varicose vein symptoms? 

When varicose veins are left untreated, one potential outcome is the development of painful and uncomfortable symptoms. Vein symptoms can range from mild to severe, sometimes impacting quality of life. Since vein disease is progressive, these symptoms tend to worsen over time.

Varicose veins symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Cramping
  • Heaviness
  • Numbness
  • Itching 
  • Burning
  • Pain relief when legs are elevated

If you experience any of these issues, consult a vein specialist for personalized recommendations. USA Vein Clinics is one of the leading vein treatment centres in the United States, offering compassionate care and state-of-the-art facilities at over 100 locations.1

What other problems can occur when varicose veins go untreated? 

Along with causing painful venous symptoms, varicose veins can place patients at increased risk for several dangerous health conditions. These conditions include venous ulcers, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and pulmonary embolism. 

Venous ulcers

Venous ulcers are open, non-healing wounds that develop near varicose veins, usually on the legs or ankles. They can lead to serious skin and wound infections.

Venous ulcer symptoms include: 

  • Itchy, scaly, dry skin on the legs
  • Hardened skin around the ulcer
  • Heavy feeling in the legs
  • Red, purple, or brown colour on the skin
  • Swollen and enlarged veins on the legs
  • Cracked or dry skin that may open up
  • Swollen ankles
  • Unpleasant and foul-smelling discharge from the ulcer

While venous ulcers should be kept clean and dry to prevent infection, only vein treatment can address the underlying problem and prompt healing.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

DVT is a serious type of blood clot that occurs in the deep venous system. Although DVT can occur anywhere in the body, the legs are most often impacted. 

Common DVT symptoms, which usually develop on only one side, include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Cramping 

If you experience DVT symptoms, it is important to seek urgent treatment as soon as possible. 

Pulmonary embolism 

When a DVT occurs, it can place you at risk for pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening medical emergency. Pulmonary embolism describes when a DVT breaks free of its original location, travels through the bloodstream, and enters the lungs. 

Signs of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens with a deep breath or cough

 

If you experience any of these issues, call emergency services immediately or head directly to the nearest emergency room. 

Preventing varicose veins

There are many known risk factors for varicose veins, including age, genetics, pregnancy, and lifestyle. However, it is also true that anyone, of any age, can develop varicose veins. 

To reduce your risk of developing varicose veins:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Move around frequently throughout the day
  • Avoid prolonged standing or sitting
  • Eat a healthy, well-rounded diet
  • Hydrate well
  • Quit smoking

Additionally, close monitoring by a vein specialist may be beneficial for individuals at high risk. Early intervention typically leads to the best health outcomes. 

Seek treatment for varicose veins

Individuals suffering from the effects of varicose veins should know that these problematic veins do not typically go away on their own. As discussed above, varicose veins can lead to challenging symptoms, as well as increasing the risk of several dangerous health conditions2

Fortunately, minimally invasive, outpatient vein treatment exists that can alleviate venous symptoms, reduce serious health risks, and improve quality of life. While there are a number of non-surgical methods available, all varicose vein treatments have a similar goal: to close and seal off diseased veins, rerouting blood flow to healthy, surrounding veins. 

Minimally invasive, office-based vein treatment does not need to involve a hospital stay, general anesthesia, or lengthy recovery. The vast majority of patients are able to return immediately to most normal activities. In some cases, multiple treatments may be needed to obtain desired results. 

USA Vein Clinics offers the following varicose vein treatments:1

  • Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT)
  • Ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy
  • ClariVein® treatment (mechanochemical ablation)
  • VenaSeal™ treatment
  • Varithena vein treatment

For additional information about varicose vein treatment, we recommend consulting an experienced vein specialist. 

 

References

  1. USA Vein Clinics. Trusted Vein Treatment Centers for Vein Disease. 2022. Available from: www.usaveinclinics.com (accessed 20 June 2022).
  2. USA Vein Clinics. Are Varicose Veins Dangerous? 2022. Available from: www.usaveinclinics.com/blog/varicose-veins-dangerous (accessed 20 June 2022).

 

Article information

Acknowledgements: Writing assistance of this article was supported Ignite Visibility, and reviewed by USA Vascular Centers.

Disclosures: Dr Yan Katsnelson has no financial or non-financial relationships or activities to declare in relation to this article. 

Compliance with ethics: This article is an opinion piece and does not report on new clinical data, or any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Data availability: Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study/during the writing of this article.

Access: This article is freely accessible at touchCARDIO.com © Touch Medical Media 2022

Corresponding author: Dr. Yan Katsnelson, USA Vein Clinics, Vascular and Fibroid Centers, USA.

Support: Writing of this article was supported by Touch Medical Media. 

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