The Elderly and Varicose Veins: Added Risk, Simple Treatment


One of the great complaints of aging is how the body slows down, either because of mobility issues or compromised circulation. Because of this decreased mobility, health issues can arise—for example, leg ulcers, which are especially problematic and can be debilitating in some cases.

The cause of a leg ulcer is high pressure in the superficial leg veins for one of two reasons: 1, valve failure in these superficial veins, which we call varicose veins, or 2, damage to the deeper veins in the leg (often the result of deep vein thrombosis).

An especially compromised part of the leg is just above the ankle, where the blood that’s being pushed back up the leg is at its lowest, and often its narrowest, point. While there are various theories as to why the high pressure causes skin damage, the general idea is that substances leak out of the vein and collect under the skin at the ankle, which causes inflammation and skin deterioration.

Signs to look for

If you’re concerned about a potential leg ulcer, check your skin for dryness over or near the anklebone, especially on the inside of your leg. This is a particularly vulnerable spot as there is no flesh between the skin and the bone to offer added protection. The dryness that appears can cause venous eczema, an itchy sensation (with some discoloration of the skin), referred to as haemosiderin deposition or lipodermatosclerosis.

Oftentimes, symptoms will be present for years before an actual ulcer develops.

Treatment options

The key is to treat this condition early on, which can reduce the chance of an ulcer. Vein ulcers are painful and debilitating, putting a person’s independence at risk as well. Waiting until an ulcer breaks out can take months or even years to heal, requiring ongoing special treatments and compression bandaging. There is even the risk that some ulcers will never heal in certain patients.

Vein specialists can scan the leg veins to find any valve problems and decide the best approach to take. In prevention, most treatments include the usual out-patient, minimally-invasive therapy used for varicose and spider veins, either foam sclerotherapy or laser. Because both are done in the office, elderly patients don’t have to undergo the more serious general anesthesia, which could compromise their health in a variety of ways.

Prevention at any age

As with all vein conditions, retaining (and maintaining) mobility is an essential part of leg health. While a workout routine may be difficult to keep up in more advanced age, it is important to pursue activities that can move the legs, either by low-paced walking, low-impact water aerobics, yoga, or other stretching poses that can stimulate circulation in the legs. And as always, consider compression stockings to help with that blood flow.

If you’re at risk of a leg ulcer and want a consultation, or you’re ready to remove your spider or varicose veins, or if you just want more information on laser treatment or sclerotherapy, contact us at 760-944-9263 or visit our website at