A broad variety of venous problems can occur and some of the most common presentations are covered here. However, less common conditions are often easily recognised and managed in a specialised vein practice. Whatever you may have, it might relieve you to know that you are probably not the first one!
Surface veins include telangiectasia and reticular veins, which are visible as red to purple “thread veins” on the skin surface, along with slightly larger blue/green veins just beneath the skin surface. Although mainly of cosmetic concern, these veins may be associated with discomfort in the legs, and may also be a sign of more serious underlying venous problems.
Varicose veins are the larger, usually bulging blue green veins visible on many people’s legs. Not all visible leg veins are varicose, or “incompetent”, and ultrasound examination can help to define the nature of such veins. Varicose veins are of concern due to cosmetic appearance, but may also cause leg aching, swelling, and more severe skin changes in the lower legs.
This term is used to describe the changes that occur in the skin and subcutaneous tissue in the lower legs as a result of long term untreated varicose veins. The skin, particularly in the lower leg above the inside of the ankle may develop changes of increased pigmentation, skin irritation, scarring and hardening of the layer of tissue beneath the skin. Eventually venous ulceration can occur with untreated venous disease. Only a small proportion of people with varicose veins progress to such skin changes. Risk factors for this progression include poor mobility, obesity, and history of deep vein thrombosis.
This is often the end state of poorly managed chronic lower leg vein problems, and venous abnormalities are the most common cause of lower limb ulceration. However, there are other potential causes of leg ulceration, and a thorough assessment by a doctor experienced in leg vein problems can often lead to the most appropriate treatment, and rapid improvement and resolution of leg ulcers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Keeping fit, avoiding prolonged standing, eating a healthy and balanced diet and avoiding excess weight gain, or losing weight if you are overweight, will help to reduce your risk of leg vein problems.
It is true that varicose vein problems do tend to progress and recurrence is common. However, appropriate treatment can slow progression and reduce the risk of complications from venous disease.
Having large varicose veins does increase the risk for blood clots in the superficial veins, but the increase in risk for deep vein thrombosis is minimal.