Varicose veins are bulging, twisted veins that can be seen and felt right under the skin. They commonly occur on the legs, and are present in up to 30% of people. Sometimes, they really are just a cosmetic issue, which is most often the case with spider veins. Spider veins are a smaller version of varicose veins that can appear as red or blue lines in a webbed pattern. Varicose veins and spider veins differ, largely because varicose veins can lead to more serious health problems. And if your varicose veins are painful, it’s important that you don’t ignore them.
Hypertension has earned the nick name of “the silent killer” due to the fact that many patients with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition until a screening blood pressure reveals a high reading. Untreated or undiagnosed high blood pressure leads to premature heart attack, kidney failure, stroke and death.
Similarly, active treatment of high cholesterol through weight loss, dietary modification, exercise and medication when appropriate has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack and deaths related to hardening of the arteries. Screening blood tests for high cholesterol are routinely performed a part of an annual medical evaluation after the age of 40.
Physicians are not likely to advise their patients with high cholesterol that they should wait until their first heart attack or stroke before considering active therapy.
The same can be said for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Tighter blood sugar control with dietary modification, increased physical activity and medications when needed has been shown to slow the progression of a variety of complications of diabetes including retinopathy (eye problems), nephropathy (kidney failure), neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the feet) as well as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Logic dictates a proactive approach to patients with diabetes to reduce the chances of these complications.
Venous insufficiency is a medical problem as well and I believe it is time we start treating it as such rather than wishing it away with unfilled compression hose prescriptions or compression hose still in their boxes. Earlier diagnosis and intervention where appropriate will reduce the long-term consequences and complications of venous insufficiency such as thrombosis, bleeding, skin changes and ulceration. The modern, minimally invasive technique of endovenous ablation has made this possible.
Painful varicose veins can get worse, and as they worsen, you can develop new complications as a result. Hidden dangers to be aware of if you don’t treat varicose veins include:
Leg Swelling – As pressure builds within the veins, fluid from the blood can leak into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling. Signs of swelling can include a tight sensation in your skin, or an impression left in your skin after removing your socks or shoes.
Skin Ulcers – Varicose veins can cause swelling, which over time can result in skin changes. When this occurs, skin can become less likely to heal from even minor injuries.
Skin Infection – When the tissues are stretched from swelling, this interferes with the body’s natural defense against infection.