Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Varicose veins are a common vascular condition characterised by swollen, twisted veins that typically appear in the legs, although can also be visible on other parts of the body. Varicose veins are often considered a cosmetic concern rather than a health concern, however they can sometimes raise questions about their potential risks and dangers.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that usually develop in the legs. They occur when the one-way valves within the veins become weak or damaged, causing blood to flow backwards, away from the heart, and pool within the vein. Over time, this pooling of blood leads to the veins' dilation and the bulging characteristic appearance of varicose veins.

Understanding the risks and complications of varicose veins

Varicose veins can sometimes be associated with discomfort, pain, and more severe complications, so it is essential to understand the potential dangers associated with this condition and know when to reach out to a medical professional.

Can a varicose vein cause a blood clot?

One concern regarding varicose veins is the potential for the development of blood clots, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Although varicose veins themselves do not typically cause DVT, they may contribute to its development in some cases.

This is because varicose veins can slow down blood circulation in the legs (and other areas of the body), increasing the risk of blood clots in the deep veins. If a blood clot forms in a deep vein, it runs the risk of breaking loose and travelling to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism which is a severe and life-threatening condition.

While the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism due to varicose veins is relatively low, individuals with varicose veins should be vigilant about any unusual symptoms, such as swelling, warmth, redness, or pain in the legs. Prompt medical attention is crucial if these symptoms arise so always keep an eye on your varicose veins.

Can varicose veins burst?

It is possible for varicose veins to rupture in rare cases, typically when they become severely enlarged and weakened. This can be painful and may result in some localised bleeding as the rupture can cause blood to leak into the surrounding tissue. 

While a burst varicose vein can be uncomfortable and concerning, it is not generally considered life-threatening. However, we recommend that you seek immediate medical attention to address the bleeding and prevent complications.

Can you die from a burst varicose vein?

In most cases, a burst varicose vein does not lead to a fatal outcome. However, it can cause significant pain, discomfort, and can cause some secondary complications if left untreated. The primary concern with a ruptured varicose vein is the potential for excessive bleeding, skin damage, and infection in the affected area.

Although it is uncommon, severe bleeding from a ruptured varicose vein may require medical intervention to control and manage the bleeding. In these cases, a healthcare professional can evaluate the extent of the bleeding and take appropriate measures to address it, which could include surgical intervention or other medical procedures.

What happens when a varicose vein bleeds?

When a varicose vein bleeds, blood will flow from the ruptured vein and the surrounding tissue may become swollen due to the accumulation of blood, and will more than likely be tender to touch.

Over time, repeated episodes of bleeding can lead to skin changes, such as discolouration and the development of open sores or ulcers, however, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention if you experience bleeding from a varicose vein. Healthcare professionals can assess the severity of the bleeding, provide appropriate treatment, and offer guidance on wound care and prevention of future bleeding episodes.

Are itchy varicose veins dangerous?

Itchy varicose veins can be annoying and in some cases may indicate underlying issues, but they are not typically considered dangerous. The itching associated with varicose veins is often a result of skin irritation caused by pooling blood, inflammation, or changes in blood flow within the affected veins, and isn’t something that should be worried.

However, if you are constantly itching and scratching, you could cause some skin damage which can increase the risk of skin infections. To prevent complications associated with itchy varicose veins, try to avoid scratching, even though it can be tempting and apply moisturiser to keep the affected area hydrated. A doctor may recommend wearing compression stockings to improve blood circulation, alleviate itching, and reduce the risk of skin complications.

When should I worry about my varicose veins?

It's best to try not to worry about your varicose veins until you have spoken to a medical professional; they will be able to determine if your veins have developed into anything more serious. 

That being said, if your varicose veins cause significant pain, aching, or discomfort, it's a reason for concern; chronic or intense pain in the legs can impact your quality of life and may indicate underlying issues that need medical attention. Excessive swelling around your varicose veins, especially if it doesn't subside with elevation and rest, can be a sign of more severe venous insufficiency, and you should also keep an eye on changes in the skin overlying varicose veins, such as darkening, inflammation, or the development of open sores (venous ulcers). We recommend seeking medical attention if you have a history of blood clots, or if you experience persistent feelings of leg fatigue, heaviness, or a sense of restlessness that doesn't improve with rest. All of these symptoms should be taken seriously and should be discussed with your doctor.

While varicose veins are generally not considered dangerous or life-threatening, they can pose some risks and complications such as the potential for deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), the rare possibility of vein rupture, and the development of itchy varicose veins leading to skin issues. It is crucial to be aware of these potential dangers and seek prompt medical attention if you experience any concerning symptoms or complications. Early intervention and appropriate treatment for varicose veins can help manage these risks and improve your overall vascular health.

Get in touch with us now for advice on varicose veins.

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