Why you should never turn a blind eye
Like many medical conditions, varicose veins can seem relatively benign at first (although many people regard them as unsightly). Often, they only get worse gradually, which can lead some patients to put up with the discomfort or pain – we’ve even had people tell us that they accepted varicose veins as an ‘inevitable’ part of getting older or of giving birth.
It’s well-known that certain risk factors (like obesity, inactivity and a poor diet) can cause or exacerbate varicose veins – but the opposite is also true. Developing varicose veins is not a certainty in life; however, if you do, they are very likely to worsen if ignored, and this can ultimately lead to some very serious health consequences.
Not so bad – at first
Early symptoms of varicose veins can include heaviness in the legs, discomfort and pain. More serious consequences can include heavier than usual bleeding in the event of a fall. Lifestyle impacts can range from a loss of confidence to insomnia caused by ‘restless leg symptom’. Most people who have varicose veins will likely experience some or all of these symptoms – and they can generally be lessened through effective management and changing up your diet and exercise habits.
Signs of bigger problems
If left untreated for a long period of time, varicose veins can lead to damage to the skin on your lower legs. Ultimately, you could develop a venous ulcer – these open sores are very difficult to heal. As well as being unsightly, they are often very painful and can limit your ability to get around without help. Definitely something to seek help for, and a compelling reason not to simply ‘put up with’ varicose veins.
Serious conditions related to varicose veins
We don’t want to be alarmist, but varicose veins have been linked to two very serious conditions in particular: phlebitis and the better-known – and potentially life-threatening – deep vein thrombosis or DVT, a condition more commonly associated with long-haul flights (back when international travel was an option) or any other form of prolonged immobility.
Phlebitis is essentially a superficial version of DVT. Varicose veins can lead to inflammation of the veins, which in turn can result in pooling and clotting of blood in the inflamed veins. This tends to show as a hard yet tender lump on your leg.
This ‘superficial thrombophlebitis’ can be a risk factor for DVT, and this is where things can get very dangerous with very little warning. A blood clot or thrombus that extends deep into your venous system may be prone to breaking loose. It can then travel through your circulatory system and make its way to your lungs.
A blockage of the blood supply to your lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism, and can be fatal. If you experience an unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain or you start coughing up blood, you should seek medical attention without delay.
Don’t delay; act today
While these may be worst-case scenarios, they can and do happen to patients with varicose veins. Given that a variety of safe, effective treatments exist for varicose veins, we would urge you to get advice sooner rather than later. As well as avoiding some potentially very serious consequences, we can help you recover a lot of your quality of life – wouldn’t you rather have restful nights and pain-free days?
If you have concerns or questions about varicose veins, or would like to learn more about safe, effective treatment methods, contact Dr Francois Steyn on 012 993 4161 or 012 993 0911, or at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a consultation.