Varicose veins — those bulging and often twisted veins that grace the legs of many may be seen as a cosmetic concern by some but varicose veins can sometimes signal more significant issues lurking beneath the surface. Understanding when to be concerned about varicose veins is vital for your health and peace of mind. In this blog, we'll navigate the world of varicose veins, unravelling the nuances of this condition and pinpointing when it's time to take action.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted veins that often appear swollen and raised on the surface of the skin, commonly in the legs. These veins develop when the one-way valves within the veins, responsible for regulating blood flow back to the heart, weaken or fail. As a result, blood pools in the veins, causing them to swell and become visibly pronounced.
Varicose veins appear as large, thick cords on the thighs, calves, and feet. They are noticeable to the touch as they protrude through the skin and may be purple, green or blue in colour with significant knots.
Symptoms That May Indicate Serious Issues
The appearance of varicose veins does not commonly indicate a serious issue. However, when coupled with other symptoms, they can sometimes indicate a more concerning issue.
Though varicose veins can sometimes cause pain, persistent or unbearable pain may result from inflammation or blood clots within the veins.
Significant swelling in the affected areas or the legs, ankles and feet may indicate a more advanced stage of venous insufficiency.
Varicose veins may cause poor blood circulation, leading to persistent itching in the affected areas.
Similarly, skin changes such as discolouration can result from poor blood circulation and chronic venous insufficiency.
If the skin around varicose veins begins to thicken, it may be a sign of tissue changes and chronic inflammation.
Advanced complications can lead to ulcers forming on or around the varicose veins. Ulcers require medical attention to prevent further issues.
Possible Complications of Varicose Veins
If varicose veins are not treated, they can lead to further issues and more serious complications. These may include:
Deep Vein Thrombosis is a serious condition wherein blood clots form in the deep veins. These clots can travel through the veins to other important systems in the body, such as the lungs, and may be potentially life-threatening.
Venous ulcers can form, especially in the lower leg, due to increased pressure in the affected veins and poor circulation. These ulcers can be painful and, when combined with poor circulation, take a long time to heal, leading to an increased risk of infection.
Skin changes like dry skin due to varicose veins may lead to small wounds through which bacteria can enter and cause infections. Infections can then lead to cellulitis, venous stasis dermatitis, skin abscesses, and systemic infections, increasing the risk of sepsis.
When To See A Varicose Vein Specialist
Even if they experience no other symptoms, many individuals with varicose veins will choose to receive treatment to lessen their appearance and prevent further complications.
However, if you experience persistent pain, cramping, or itching, especially if these symptoms worsen, seeking consultation with a varicose vein specialist is advisable.
Skin changes like dryness, discolouration, or thickening may indicate underlying issues, warranting evaluation by a professional. Localised swelling, particularly if sudden and impactful on daily life, should prompt an examination for early intervention. Bleeding and ulcers, the most concerning symptoms, require immediate attention to prevent infection and address potential deeper issues.
Early detection and proper treatment are key to reducing the risk of complications associated with varicose veins. Book an appointment with Dr Desmond Ooi for a consultation and guidance on how to treat your varicose veins.