Why you should never ignore painful varicose veins

Why you should never ignore painful varicose veins

Leg pain and varicose veins often go together. Although some varicose vein sufferers do not experience this symptom, a majority of those living with varicose veins live with some degree of leg pain.

Typically, pain is described as a deep achiness, heaviness, throbbing, muscle cramping, or restless of legs at night. Swelling of the legs is common too, and some sufferers report skin dryness and itchiness near the affected veins.

Painful legs should not be ignored, because the pain can be symptomatic of a greater health issue.

For instance, the swelling that can occur with varicose veins can result in skin changes over time. Swollen tissue can limit the flow of oxygen, so an injury can take longer to heal. When the skin doesn’t heal, an ulcer can form. In fact, 80 percent of leg ulcers are related to varicose veins.

Because swelling can interfere with the body’s natural defense against infection, skin infections can occur as a result of varicose veins. Bacteria that are normally present on the skin can get into the body, causing a skin infection called cellulitis. Medication and sometimes surgery are needed to treat cellulitis.

Phlebitis can occur when varicose veins become inflamed and form blood clots. Pain, skin discoloration, an area of skin that feels warmth or hot to the touch are symptomatic to phlebitis. If a varicose vein bursts, an ulcer can develop, and the surrounding area can be very painful.

Bleeding is another concern with varicose veins. Because of the amount of blood in varicose veins that is right below the skin’s surface, bleeding can be hard to control if the vein is nicked, cut or hit. Or, there could be a larger bruise from the pooled blood if the skin is not broken.

Pain in your leg can be a red flag that there is a blood clot in the varicose vein called Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT. This is a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical treatment. The leg can be swollen, warm, red and painful. The biggest risk is that the blood clot can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.

Spider veins rarely become painful, but the blue-ish, web-like veins can be an early warning sign of chronic vein insufficiency or an early warning sign that a tissue issue could develop cellulitis or an ulcer.

Varicose veins, which develop when a valve weakens and fails, causes the blood to back up and pool. As discussed in the August column, the pressure in the wall of the vein increases from the pooling of the blood and the vein balloons. This ballooning is why a protrusion is seen through the skin. Depending on the severity of the pooling and the pressure, the vein can become thick and ropelike. Medical treatment is the only long-term solution to varicose veins.

San Diego Vein Institute assesses painful varicose veins and helps patients choose the best course of treatment. San Diego Vein Institute is located at 336 Encinitas Boulevard, Suite 130, Encinitas, CA 92024. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (760) 944-9263 or visit