Varicose Vein Complications

Varicose Vein Complications

Varicose vein complications are many and varied.  The severity of problems assoaciated with them does not always match the visually obvious problem. 

Some people with not very prominent veins may complain of significant associated pain. 

Others with large varicose veins will say they are not aware of any problem.  However often these people will report they feel a lot better after treatment than they did before.  Their partners will often report that they appear better with more energy and in generally better moods.  Exercise tolerance can be improved.



One of the more severe varicose vein complications is a varicose ulcer.  As the blood is not so efficiently drained from the skin by defective varicose veins small injuries do not heal well.  A small bite or scratch can fail to heal and become a bigger and bigger problem. 

People can have ulcers that fail to heal over years.  Some of these, over many years, can even result in cancerous skin changes.

Fixing the underlying vein problem will cure the problem speedily. 

Failing this regular dressings to protect the wound supported by strong compression stockings will speed improvement.  Without fixing the underlying vein problems there is a high risk of further ulcers.


Varicose Eczema

Again due to the poor drainage of blood from the legs one of the readily cured varicose vein complications is varicose eczema.  This can occur in people with a past history of eczema elsewhere.  But it will also occur in those with no such history.  

Steroid cream applications will often clear an episode.  Moisturising the skin will lessen the chance of an outbreak.  But the only long-term cure is treating the underlying veins.


Itchy Skin

In large population studies this seemingly insignificant symptom has been shown to be the most reliable predictor of more severe varicose vein complications.  In other words, looking at the state of someone's varicose veins will not give and accurate measure of whether they should absolutely get them treated to prevent problems later in life. 

But itching does indicate such people absolutely should get something done.

The symptom represents the skin becoming more dry as it becomes less well nourished.



Many people with varicose veins, whether large and bulky, or more insignificant and maybe yet unassociated with deeper connection problems will complain of pain as one or the only one of their varicose vein complications. 

Often this pain gets worse by the end of the day.  It may be an aching or even sharp.  Others are aware of the pain on going to bed. 

Usually elevating the legs will improve the sensation markedly. 

With more advanced veins some people will get pain as soon as they put their legs to the floor.  The blood, flowing the wrong way down their dilated veins, rushes to their lower legs and feet as they stand up.


Superficial Clots or Superficial Thrombophlebitis

At times, either spontaneously or after a knock, an area of varicose veins may become hard, tender to touch, or even red and tender without touch.  Often this is a localised clot within the vein. 

Sluggish, turbulent blood flow, which tends to occur in varicose veins, predisposes the blood to clot. 

The redness and tenderness is more to do with the body breaking down and remodelling the clot. 

Such varicose vein complications of localised clots can stay just localised.  Or they can extend in size.  If they extend to near major deep vein junctions there is some concern about possible deep vein complications. 

Failing this simple local treatments is all that is required.  Anti-inflammatories with or without some local support - ideally from a compression stocking - is all that is required. 

It would suggest that treatment would prevent further problems.  When surgery was the main treatment of varicose veins this was avoided around such problems.  With newer treatments initiating treatment early often relieves discomfort and extension of the problem.



Night cramps, particularly if they occur regularly, are one of those varicose vein complications that people often do not associate with the veins. 

One type of cramp commonly reported along with varicose veins is that of cramps felt in the feet. 

It seems either the muscles are trying to exert more activity in the healthy veins to ensure a more effective circulation.  Or it may just represent local muscle irritability from the increased waste products present in the sluggishly moving blood of varicose veins. 


Restless Legs

People reporting restless legs with the inability to keep themselves from moving their legs with prolonged sitting or standing can occur as one of the many varicose vein complications.  It tends to occur more towards the end of the day and can affect some people as the attempt to go to sleep. 

It is felt the problem stems from the fluid building up in the tissues from the back pressure created by the poorly functioning veins. 

Most people with this problem associated with their varicose veins will notice the problem disappear when their veins are treated.


Ankle Swelling

More severe varicose veins can be associated with swelling of their ankles by the end of the day.  There are a number of other causes of this problem too.  Again the reverse pressure associated with varicose veins seems to cause this. 

After even a few years of varicose veins the associated fluid draining network of lymphatics can be adversely affected.  If so, fixing the varicose veins may not completely resolve the swelling.  Then it will be necessary to treat it more as a lymphoedema problem.



This is one of the more severe and often non-reversible varicose vein complications.  The skin around and just above the ankles becomes hard and tough and discoloured. 

It represents long term scar tissue invading or replacing healthy skin in the area from long term poor nutrition and back pressure injury. 

Some people can get the so called "champagne ankles" where this tissue contracts down and skin above bulges more.



This complication is a variation on the one above.  The skin becomes acutely inflamed - red and sore - as a sudden inflamed reaction occurs in the skin in the lower leg.


One of the more alarming, but easily treated, varicose vein complications is bleeding occurring with relatively little or no apparent injury to the skin.  As the blood tends to flow backwards from varicose veins, quite a lot of blood can be lost rapidly from such a point. 

Elevation of the leg and local pressure at the bleeding point will stop it very effectively. 

But it usually occurs because the skin overlying the varicose vein has become very thin.  It breaks down easily.  Treating the varicose veins would be advised.


Tiredness and Heaviness

Some people will experience tired and heavy legs as their varicose vein complications.  This is often reported after a time on their feet.  It can cause people to seek a change of occupation. 

Again fixing the underlying varicose vein problem will usually result in a rapid improvement.

The are a myriad of varicose vein complications, the majority of which will improve and disappear with treating the involved veins.  Usually problems tend to compound and get worse with time.

Treating them early tends to prevent further problems and complications. 

There will still usually be an underlying weakness that could present with other varicose veins in the future.


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