What Can Happen if You Don’t Treat Your Varicose Veins?

Bluish, bulging varicose veins can be unsightly, but if their appearance really does not bother you, then you might be tempted to just ignore them. However, varicose vein treatments are not just about aesthetics. Treatment is also important for preventing the many health ailments that can arise due to varicose veins. Here’s a look at some of the side effects that you may experience if you choose not to treat your varicose veins.


“Phlebitis” literally means “inflammation of the veins.” It’s a very common condition that can arise from varicose veins. The abnormal pooling of blood that comes with varicose veins, results in a localized  irritation of the vein walls eventually resulting in swelling and discomfort. Phlebitis is just a more severe case of this irritation. Symptoms of phlebitis include pain and tenderness around the vein, a low-grade fever, and redness of the skin around the vein.

Phlebitis is certainly uncomfortable, and not often easily managed. You’ll need to apply warm compresses to the affected area, wear compression stockings, and walk. Most patients with phlebitis have recurring bouts of the condition until they have the underlying circulatory issues caused by their varicose veins treated. Furthermore, phlebitis is only an early consequence of varicose vein. If left untreated, it can lead to potentially more serious issues like blood clots.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in the deep venous system of the legs. This deep system connects the superficial venous system (the part of the venous system where varicose veins exists) to the heart. The presence of varicose veins, can effectively increase your risk of developing one of these DVT’s. People suffering from varicose veins need to make a concerted effort to stay active, thus minimizing the amount of blood pooling in these veins. Blood that pools   have a greater tendency to clot.

If you do develop a DVT, you’ll first notice symptoms like increased warmth, swelling, and tenderness in one leg. The real danger comes if the blood clot dislodges itself and makes its way up to the lungs where it can get lodged.  This condition is called a pulmonary embolism, and it can be life-threatening if large enough.

Venous Ulcers

The pooling of blood that comes along with varicose veins, does not just increase your risk for blood clots. It also increases the pressure seen within the affected veins. This abnormally elevated venous pressure acts as a form of resistance to normal blood flow between the arterial circulation and the venous circulation. The result is a decrease in arterial, venous and capillary blood flow thru the soft tissue. Therefore, when a person cuts their leg while shaving, the affected skin will have difficulty healing due to this relative decrease in blood flow thru the injured area. The result can be a persistent wound that can eventually give rise to a venous ulcer resulting from the body’s inability to adequately perfuse the injured area to allow proper healing. These ulcers can be quite large, can be painful, and often bleed and ooze clear fluid. On rare occasions, if not properly cared for, these ulcers can become infected.

You’ll need to keep a leg ulcer clean and bandaged to help it heal. Elevating your legs and wearing compression stockings can also help, but in many cases, the ulcers won’t heal completely until the varicose vein issues are treated. In serious cases, skin grafts may be needed to help correct the damage left by a serious venous ulcer. Treating the underlying venous issues, promotes healthy and more rapid healing of venous ulcers.

Spontaneous Bleeding

As your varicose veins become more pronounced, the vein wall generally becomes thinner and thinner. Unfortunately, as a varicose vein gets larger or as a person gets more of them in a general area, the inflammation and irritation caused by the blood in these veins, tend to promote itching and discomfort in and around these veins. Many patients, in turn, find themselves scratching these areas resulting in the occasional inadvertent damage to the varicose veins. Overt bleeding is not uncommon in this case. Unfortunately, the level of bleeding given the abnormal pressure within these veins, can be quite variable, often ranging from just a few drops of blood on the sheets or pants, to a full-blown gush of blood that can be quite alarming for some. In some cases, leading to an unplanned urgent care or emergency room visit.

While there is no guarantee that you’ll develop any of these aforementioned conditions if you don’t treat your varicose veins, it remains a possibility. Modern varicose vein treatments are a far cry from treatments performed back in our parent’s days. Varicose vein treatments today, involve simple, outpatient procedures with basically no scars and no down time. New more modern techniques like Endovenous laser ablation therapy (ELT) and ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, or UGFS have helped to revolutionize varicose vein treatments. Gone are the stripping procedures of the past.

Don’t delay treatment and put yourself at risk for any of the above potential complication of varicose vein disease. Schedule an appointment with us at the Sheen Vein Institute in St. Louis.  Our physicians will evaluate your varicose veins issues while answering your questions and determining which treatment approach best fit your needs.

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