Complications of Varicose Veins

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Most people with varicose veins do not develop any complications; however, they can cause serious side effects, which you should be aware of if you suffer from varicose veins. These include:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling caused by blood clots (thrombophlebitis)
  • Varicose eczema
  • Varicose ulcers
  • Skin conditions


If your varicose veins are near the surface of your skin, they can cause heavy bleeding if you cut or bang them. If this happens, you should lie down and elevate your leg putting pressure on the bleed. If the bleeding will not stop, you should seek medical help.


Thrombophlebitis is a condition that is caused by blood clots in your varicose veins. This can cause swelling, pain, redness, and heat in the area affected. If this occurs, you should see your GP who will be able to prescribe compression socks and if necessary painkillers. They will also be able to discuss long- term treatment options with you.

Varicose Eczema

Varicose eczema is a condition, which causes the skin around varicose veins to become red, peeling, and irritated. It is caused by the valves, which allow blood to flow in the wrong direction. This can be treated with the treatment of the underlying problem as well as treatment for the eczema, which include moisturisers or corticosteroid creams for more severe conditions. Varicose eczema can be relieved with compression stockings.

Varicose Ulcers

Varicose ulcers can be extremely painful and are caused by the poor circulation. An ulcer looks like a shallow crater, which exposes the tissue. Varicose ulcers can also cause:

  • Swelling of the ankles and lower legs
  • Skin discolouration around the ulcer
  • Hardened skin around the ulcer
  • Leg pain
  • Heaviness in the leg

If you believe that you have a varicose ulcer you should see your GP immediately as they can become infected causing severe pain, which could result in amputation. Treatment can involve from cleaning and dressing the ulcer and treating any related symptoms such as pain, swelling and varicose eczema. Once the ulcer has healed, you will be able to discuss treatment options for your varicose veins to prevent the development of further ulcers.

Skin Conditions

Varicose veins can also affect your skin. Chronic venous insufficiency can develop when your blood flow is abnormal. This changes the way that your skin and blood interact particularly with the exchange of toxins, nutrients, and oxygen. This can lead to other conditions, and as a result should be carefully monitored, and where possible the varicose veins should be treated. Varicose veins can also cause your skin to become tight and hard, this is known as lipodermatosclerosis and can also lead to discolouration of the skin.

Treatment of the Complications of Varicose Veins

If you develop any of the above complications as a result of your varicose veins it is important that you seek medical advice. The underlying cause of the conditions should be dealt with to prevent further discomfort. It is likely that if your symptoms are severe you will receive treatment for your varicose veins on the NHS. This treatment will first involve treating the discomfort caused by the complication and may then lead to treatment of the varicose veins themselves.

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