Can You Get a Blood Clot in a Varicose Vein?

Varicose veins can be unsightly and sometimes painful. They are usually caused by increased blood pressure in the legs that is the result of weakened valves, allowing blood to collect in the veins. Due to this nature, many patients often wonder if it’s possible to get a blood clot in a varicose vein.

Can You Get a Blood Clot in a Varicose Vein?

Varicose veins are seen just under the surface of the skin and are veins that have become twisted and swollen. This swelling and twisting can cause the blood flow to slow down. This sluggish blood flow and the weakened valves can cause a blood clot in a varicose vein called superficial thrombophlebitis.
Although these blood clots are superficial and not life-threatening, they can still be painful and lead to redness, swelling and tenderness in the area of the clot. But unlike deep veins, which are surrounded by muscle, varicose veins are very close to the skin surface and are not surrounded by muscle. This means that a clot in a deep vein (called deep vein thrombosis or DVT) is much more likely to break up due to the frequent manipulation of the vein by the muscles surrounding it.
However, in rare cases, these clots can lead to a pulmonary embolism – a condition in which a piece of the clot breaks off and flows to the lungs, causing difficulty breathing and posing life-threatening consequences.

Risk Factors for Varicose Veins and Blood Clots

There are a number of risk factors for both varicose veins and blood clots. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Pregnancy
  • Injury to the leg
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Use of birth control pills
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Family history of varicose veins

Symptoms of a Blood Clot in Varicose Vein

Symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis can vary, but typically include:

  • Inflammation and redness in the area around the clot
  • Warm sensation around the affected area
  • Tenderness and pain in the affected area that gets worse when pressure is applied
  • Change in coloration of the skin over and around the vein (typically a darkening of the skin)
  • Pain in the leg or limb affected
  • Hardening of the varicose vein

Diagnosis and Treatment of Superficial Thrombophlebitis

To get an accurate diagnosis, you’ll need to see a doctor. Usually, no tests are required as these types of clots are diagnosed through visual examination. However, if the clot is above the knee, your doctor may want to perform an ultrasound to see if there are any clots in the deep veins.
Treatment is very straightforward. Warm compresses and anti-inflammatory medications are used to treat symptoms. The clots are usually reabsorbed by the body within a few days, although symptoms can persist for a week or more.
If you’re curious about how to get rid of varicose veins or are worried that you may have a blood clot, contact us at the Sheen Vein Institute in St. Louis to schedule an appointment and learn more about varicose vein treatment options.

 

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