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What are the warning signs for dangerous varicose veins?

I have varicose veins on my legs. I don't really pay much attention to them and have never had them treated before, but my friend said that can be dangerous, because people with varicose veins are at a higher risk for blood clots. Is this true. What are the warning signs that my varicose veins are becoming dangerous and will need to be treated for my health and safety?

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Doctors Answers (7)

Warning signs include pain, throbbing, aching, restless legs and the appearance of skin ulcers.

Clotting in varicose veins is called phlebitis, and can be painful and recurrent, but should not be confused with deep vein thrombosus (DVT). Serious signs to treat varicose veins include spontaneous bleeding (usually around the ankles), phlebitis and venous ulceration of the skin. It is still beneficial to treat leg varicose veins earlier and prevent these problems, especially since vein treatments are now office procedures that are comfortable and minimally invasive, including laser endovascular ablation.

You are right that people with varicose veins are more prone to blood clots, but unfortunately, there is often no warning before a dangerous clot embolizes. Of course, if you develop a clot and survive the episode, you are forewarned. Other symptoms develop very slowly over time, such as skin irritation or leg ulcers, but blood clots would be the biggest worry. I suggest you see a vein specialist for a consultation and learn more about your specific case.

Symptoms can include pain, aching, burning, itching, swelling and superficial blood clots. An assessment for deep vein thrombosis risk requires an ultrasound.

Varicose veins themselves are not "dangerous." They are a physical sign that there may be veins deeper down that are not functioning properly (saphenous veins). Providing the femoral, or deep vein, is functioning normally, you are not at a greater risk for developing deep vein blood clots (DVT). However, we have seen patients develop superficial clots in the saphenous veins or large varicose veins which have extended toward the deep vein junctions. These can be dangerous, but are more rare. I would recommend you be evaluated by a board-certified vascular surgeon (American Board of Medical Specialties) who specializes in the treatment of these varicose veins. The evaluation will include a standing ultrasound. You will be given options for treatment. Things to watch for are painful, tender, and reddened veins and changes in your skin over the veins, especially in the ankles. This may be a sign of ulcer development. Compression hose that is measured and fitted to you is your best option to reduce chances of problems.

If there is pain, swelling, redness or skin changes, especially in larger areas, these are cause for concern and you should get them checked, preferably by a vein specialist. It is true that varicose veins are a risk factor for blood clots, but if they are not causing symptoms, they do not need to be treated.

If you have varicose veins, you need to be evaluated and develop a long term care plan. They can be managed by your phlebologist (Phlebology.org). Yes, many people with varicose veins are at higher risk of certain types of blood clots and thrombophlebitis.

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