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Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

An older man with prominent veins on his foot

Are varicose veins just an aesthetic problem? How they look is one of the biggest reasons people worry about them. They can be twisted and ugly and destroy the look of your legs at the beach. Is that the only concern, though? Are varicose veins dangerous, and what does having them say about your health? 

What Are Varicose Veins?

Veins have a unique challenge. They move blood to the heart to get oxygen, often pushing against the forces of gravity. To make that possible, veins have valves built into their walls. When the muscles in the veins contract, they squeeze blood toward the heart. They also force open the valves in the veins. 

When those muscles relax, the valves snap shut to keep blood from flowing backward. These valves are critical in the legs, particularly where blood moves upward toward the heart. 

Varicose veins indicate one or more of these valves is not functioning correctly. They are allowing blood to flow backward, where it pools around the next working valve. That causes the vein to become engorged with blood. It is that engorged vein that you see under your skin. 

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Varicose veins also indicate that the blood is not moving as it should in your legs, which can be a problem. Diseased veins can exist deep in your leg tissue where you don’t see but feel them. They can increase your risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This is a clot that forms deep in the tissue and blocks blood flow in the leg. It might also break apart and send smaller pieces to your lung or heart. That is life-threatening. 

For many people, varicose veins are more of a quality-of-life issue. You may feel a dull ache in your legs, especially toward the end of the day. Moving around can be more difficult because your legs become heavy and tired. 

You might also notice itching in your legs and swelling. That can make sleeping a challenge.

Some people with varicose near the skin’s surface will develop an ulcer that is hard to heal. This is a particularly dangerous complication if you have type 2 diabetes, as well. 

Signs Varicose Veins are Dangerous

The biggest concern with varicose veins is the potential complications. First, you should look for a change in skin color. Your skin may initially look redder but eventually turn brown. That is an indication of chronic inflammation. 

Also, watch for hot spots in your legs, especially in your calves. If one area becomes warm and painful to touch, that might indicate you have a blood clot and need immediate medical attention. 

However, any feeling of heaviness in your legs is worth talking to a doctor about. There are treatments available that can give you relief.

Treatments for Varicose Veins

Treatment will start with an ultrasound to identify diseased veins. Then, there are several procedures that can eliminate them, such as laser ablation. The treatments force the veins to collapse. When that happens, the body will reroute the blood flow to healthy veins and absorb the problem one over time. 

Visit Dr. Kimmel for Cutting-Edge Varicose Vein Treatment

Dr. Kimmel and the expert team at The Kimmel Institute have access to the latest treatments for varicose veins. They will discuss your options and help you look and feel better. Call us today to schedule your appointment.