What Happens If Varicose Veins Are Not Treated?

Veins have valves that act as one-way flaps to prevent blood from flowing backwards as it moves up your legs towards the heart, but sometimes these valves malfunction.  If the valves become weak, blood can leak backwards and collect near the valve leaflets.  When blood pools in this way, the iron in the blood becomes very irritating to the tissues and inflammation sets in leading to more damage to the valves and the overlying skin.  Genetics and lifestyle patterns are important factors in the development of venous disorders.  Pregnancy, prolonged standing, weightlifting and repeated trauma to the legs as in running also predispose people to venous disease.

If the veins are not treated and blood continues to pool in the legs, serious changes to the skin can occur leading to eczema, small red spots, dark discoloration, hardening of the skin and eventually leg ulcers.  These changes in the skin usually take years before they are evident.

The good news is that these changes can improve with proper treatment of the varicose veins.  Improvement may take months or years in longstanding venous diesease so it’s best to seek treatment as soon as a problem is evident.

Since blood cannot completely circulate out of the legs, longstanding swelling occurs which will damage the deeper leg veins over time.  Once the deep veins in the leg are injured, they are at risk for blood clot formation.   A deep venous thrombosis or blood clot is a serious medical emergency which must be treated with anticoagulants such as coumadin to prevent fatal pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the legs moves to the lungs).