Do You Have Varicose Veins? You May Be At Risk Of Blood Clots

Do You Have Varicose Veins? You May Be At Risk Of Blood Clots

Last Reviewed : 01/08/2021
Do You Have Varicose Veins? You May Be At Risk Of Blood Clots

Varicose veins are abnormally swollen and enlarged veins commonly seen on legs and feet. They are often blue or purple in color and lumpy, bulging, and crooked in appearance.

Defective valves and increased venous pressure weakens the vein vessel wall, causing veins to swell and protrude. About 23% of American adults are affected by varicose veins.

The risk of varicose vein increases with age and is common in both males and females. Factors that increase the risk of varicose veins are:

  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • prolonged standing
  • positive family history
  • use of oral contraceptives and Hormone replacement therapy

Varicose veins do not cause any serious effects on your body. Most of the time they only produce minor symptoms. Negative effects of varicose veins include swollen feet and ankles, burning sensation, muscle cramps, heavy and uncomfortable legs, as well as dry, itchy, and thin skin over the affected vein.

Prolonged standing and warm weather tend to aggravate symptoms of varicose veins. On the other hand, resting, walking, and elevating legs are some of the ways to relieve symptoms.

That said, some patients may develop serious health problems:

Varicose veins are associated with an increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Recent studies show a connection between varicose veins and an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs when blood clots form in the deep veins of legs.

DVT leads to pulmonary embolism (PE), a life-threatening condition, which occurs when blood clots break and travel to the lungs, where they block blood vessels. Pulmonary embolism presents with symptoms like chest pain and breathing difficulty. It can also cause death.

A research study conducted in Taiwan showed that varicose veins expose sufferers to the risk of blood clots by as much as five times. The researchers found an increased risk of pulmonary embolism and peripheral artery disease in people with varicose veins. But they could not find if varicose veins were the real cause behind these conditions.

The Taiwan study used data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Program. The data was collected between 2001 and 2013. The flaw in the study is that the insurance claims data do not include information about patients who don’t seek medical care. The results, therefore, apply only to patients with severe varicose veins who required medical attention.

Get varicose veins evaluated by a doctor

Further studies are needed to determine if varicose veins cause blood clot formation.

“Not much is known about varicose veins and the risk of these other diseases. Elucidating potential association between varicose veins and health-threatening diseases is important,” Chang, the Taiwan study’s author concludes.

Though varicose veins are not a serious health issue, early evaluation by a medical doctor is the best way to prevent complications.




JAMA. 2018;319(8):807-817

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