The Dangers of Varicose Veins

Are Varicose Veins Dangerous?

Varicose veins create a dangerous condition where the pools and creates painful swollen veins that can lead to dangerous health issues including leg ulcers, infection and pulmonary embolism.


How are these dangerous veins created?

Veins are thin-walled tubes that contain valves to move the blood to the heart and lungs.  The valves prevent the backflow of blood. When the valves or the vein wall becomes damaged, which can be due to age, gender, excess weight, genetics, trauma to the veins, or sitting or standing for long periods of time, they allow for blood to pool in the vein and stretch the vein. 


This process leads to the engorged, gnarled veins that we know of as varicose veins. Varicose veins have an obvious and unsightly appearance, but they pose a potential danger along with their unsightly appearance. Read more about the dangers of varicose veins in this post below.

To book an appointment with Dr. Mackay or ask a question, call 1-727-261-0047 or fill out an appointment request form.

Pain from Varicose Veins

Pain is a common factor for varicose veins, but not all individuals suffer from pain.  Those that do suffer from pain describe the pain as throbbing, heaviness, and muscle cramping.  


At-Home Treatment for for Pain & Other Symptoms

Common at home treatments that usually alleviate pain and symptoms of swelling are elevating the legs, stretching, exercises, position change, avoidance of heat, and use of compression stockings.  When pain and swelling are resistant to these types of conservative therapies, there may be complications with increased swelling and pain.


Chronic and increased swelling can cause complications, such as:

  • Drainage:  As fluid from the vein moves into the tissue with pressure changes, this fluid may then move out of the skin and has either a clear to yellow colored drainage.
  • Healing: With excess swelling and the skin does not receive appropriate nutrients, making even small cuts on the legs harder to heal. Often, these small cuts may turn into larger wounds, such as ulcers.
  • Infection: Bacteria is naturally found all over the skin. With the fluid moving out of the legs and the potential for small cuts or abrasions to turn into ulcers, this allows bacteria to move into the skin and cause an infection, called cellulitis.

As blood accumulates and pools in the veins, this makes for a large amount of blood in a small area that can lead to dangerous complications, such as:

  • Bleeding: If trauma occurs, such as a cut or tear into the vein, there may be a lot of bleeding, which can be difficult to stop, due to the amount of blood within the vein.
  • Thrombophlebitis: This is a blood clot within the varicose veins which occurs from the blood sitting in the vein that causes symptoms of redness, pain, and usually a cord-like feel to the vein.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): This is a blood clot that is in veins deep in the leg. Those with prior thrombophlebitis are at an increased risk for this type of clot. The symptoms are pain, redness, swelling, and usually difficulty with walking due to pain. DVTs are a serious medical concern, as a portion of the clot can break off and move to the lungs creating a pulmonary embolism, which is a life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention.

What to do About Varicose Veins

With all things considered, varicose veins are not always considered dangerous, but there are some concerning complications.  Most home therapies should help to alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins, but if not there are further options for treatment.  


Watching for redness, swelling, and rope or cord like veins in the legs should prompt you to see medical attention to rule out complications that may require further medical management or treatment. 


 Contact the office of Dr. Edward Mackay, a board certified vascular surgeon providing services to patients in the Tampa area.

To book an appointment with Dr. Mackay or ask a question, call 1-727-261-0047 or fill out an appointment request form.