There are very few sayings quite as Australian as “she’ll be right mate”. Whether it’s a sprained ankle, a runny nose or swelling in the legs, often our solution is to ignore the problem and get on with it. Pain in your calves, ankles that swell at the end of the day or itchiness in your legs can all too easily become “just one of those things”. However, those symptoms are all indicators of varicose veins.
Varicose veins most commonly result in twisted unsightly veins on the skin, mild swelling and aching. While this might not seem serious, if untreated those symptoms may worsen and lead to chronic aching, heaviness in the legs and general discomfort.
What Happens if Varicose Veins Are Ignored?
1. Venous ulcers
Varicose veins are caused by chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). When the varicose veins lead to the poor blood supply in the legs, areas of the skin can start to break down and expose the flesh beneath. These ulcers can grow over time and cause discomfort, pain and risk infection. Thankfully this is not common, and most people with varicose veins won’t progress to this stage unless they’re very severe.
The walls of your veins are put under increasing strain when they’re affected by varicose issues and as they become weaker, the vein is likely to bleed into the surrounding tissue. When this happens, a simple bump or scrape can cause internal bleeding. What makes this dangerous is that the bleeding is normally painless, but can still cause a large amount of blood loss and lead to further complications. People with fragile skin and other related conditions are at higher risk of this occurring.
People suffering from varicose veins are at higher risk of developing blood clots, and poor blood flow can make these clots more serious. If a clot forms in the deeper veins in your legs it can lead to something known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This can lead to a cramping, burning sensation in the legs with redness and swelling. If the DVT dislodges and travels up the bloodstream, it can cause severe, permanent damage and can be life-threatening.
4. Skin infection
Excessive swelling caused by varicose veins puts the skin under constant strain, stretching the very cells themselves. This can allow bacteria to get into the body and cause an infection known as cellulitis, leading to increased swelling, redness and irritation.
When the tissue in your leg is inflamed for extended periods of time (usually aggravated by varicose veins), it can start to become hardened and heavy. As this occurs, the legs become increasingly tender and stiff and can make sleeping, exercise and even basic movement painful.
Thrombophlebitis occurs when clots forming in the veins (commonly associated with varicose veins) cause the vein walls and surrounding area to become inflamed and irritated. This leads to weakened veins and further strain on the blood-flow, causing redness and tenderness of the area and ongoing pain.
It’s not all bad news
While there is a range of possible complications when untreated, varicose veins don’t always get worse. It’s best to view it as addressing the issue rather than trying to fix it. If your varicose veins are only small and not causing any issues, then wearing compression socks when travelling or seated for long periods of time is usually all that’s needed. However, if the veins are larger and causing aching, swelling or discolouration, it’s best to get them checked to prevent further issues developing.
Seek expert advice
The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive program using non-surgical laser treatment techniques. You can learn more in our Definitive Guide to Varicose Vein Treatment.
The benefits of non-surgical varicose vein treatment are:
- Walk-in walk-out treatment
- 98% success rate
- Extremely effective
- Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
- No general anaesthetic
- Medicare rebates apply
- No downtime or time away from work
To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call 1300 981 402. Or, make an enquiry via the Contact Us page.