About 20 million Americans live with undiagnosed and untreated varicose veins. If you’re one of them, it’s time to take action.
One of the greatest dangers of varicose veins is that they’re slow and silent. Many people with the condition don’t experience any symptoms at all, even though their veins are damaged and affecting the cells and tissues around them.
Are you one of these people?
Are You At Risk for Developing Varicose Veins?
You may be more likely to develop the condition if you:
- Are overweight
- Are inactive
- Are age 45 or older
- Have a family history of varicose veins
- Have high blood pressure
- Sit or stand for long periods of time
Signs of Untreated Varicose Veins
While clear signs of varicose veins may develop slowly over time, the condition will cause painful, uncomfortable symptoms like:
- Achy, heavy legs
- Muscle cramps
- Skin discoloration
- Pain after sitting or standing for long periods of time
Whether you’re experiencing these symptoms or not, untreated varicose veins can pose some potential major health risks that could leave you in pain, hospitalized, or in severe cases, death.
When to Worry About Varicose Veins
Varicose veins damage an essential system in your body: the blood vessels. The consequences of untreated varicose veins can be very serious, and some can eventually be fatal. They include:
1. Blood Clots
When you have varicose veins, your blood is unable to cycle back through correctly to your heart and pools in the lower body, usually the legs. This creates “stagnant blood flow”. There are two types of blood clots: superficial blood clots (or phlebitis), and deep vein clots known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Clots in deep veins can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing potentially life-threatening issues like a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. This is one of the most serious health risks associated with untreated varicose veins.
If you experience signs of a deep or superficial blood clot, don’t ignore it! A thorough examination, including a leg ultrasound and treatment, can help prevent a blood clot from enlarging and becoming potentially lethal.
Some experience bleeding when varicose veins close to the surface of the skin burst. While this isn’t usually a very serious health risk it’s important to seek medical assistance and treatment so it doesn’t continue. If a varicose vein does bleed stop the bleeding quickly by doing the following:
- Elevate Your Leg: Lie down flat and raise the leg high. You can use a few pillows for support.
- Apply Pressure: Place a clean cloth or towel on the bleeding area and apply firm pressure, for at least 10 minutes.
If the bleeding is heavy or doesn’t stop, see a doctor immediately.
About 70 percent of leg ulcers are caused by vein problems, specifically venous insufficiency. Symptoms include swelling, rashes, and brown discoloration on the affected areas. This debilitating condition can cause people to not only miss work but also miss out on life. Imagine living with daily dressing changes, chronic drainage, or the foul smell that can accompany a leg ulcer.
Unfortunately, many suffer from leg ulcers for years before they see a doctor about it. Today’s treatments can help ulcers heal and stay healed.
4. Lipodermatosclerosis (Leathery Skin)
Varicose veins are a key symptom of an illness called Lipodermatosclerosis (LDS). Those suffering from this disease often experience pain, hardening of the skin, changes in skin color, swelling, and tapering of legs above the ankles.
LDS is a medical condition that actually means “scarring of the skin and fat.” It’s described as a skin and connective tissue disease. If left untreated, lipodermatosclerosis can lead to a chronic venous leg ulcer which is very difficult to heal. LDS also severely limits a person’s ability to walk or run, and can adversely affect his or her overall health.
Read about a similar symptom called Hemosiderin Staining.
Treat Your Varicose Veins Today
These complications sound scary — and they are. Fortunately, treating your varicose veins can help prevent many of these secondary problems, or at least manage them if they’ve already developed.
If you or a loved one suffer from leg swelling, rashes or ulcers, see a vein specialist as soon as you can. If you don’t have symptoms but do have the risk factors for varicose veins, see a doctor. A simple ultrasound test will determine whether you have varicose veins or not.
Don’t wait. With your varicose veins treated, you’ll feel better — and you’ll live a longer, healthier life with fewer complications.