When Varicose Veins Become Dangerous?
Varicose veins and spider veins are unsightly and a nuisance, but at what point do they become a medical concern?
In this article we will explain the stages of progression of chronic venous disease, and why the earlier the treatment, the better.
Those annoying varicose veins are the result of a gradual weakening of the little valves inside our veins. These valves are important because they ensure that the blood moves upward through the body, from the feet to the heart, against gravity. However, due to age, heredity, and lifestyle factors, the valves may begin to fail. When this happens, venous blood moves downward towards the feet and may pool in the lower extremities. This is when chronic venous disease, also known as chronic venous insufficiency, begins.
Generally, vein specialists list the following stages through which vein disease progresses in most people:
Level 0: No visible signs of vein disease
Level 1: spider veins (1 mm in diameter) and reticular veins (1-3 mm in diameter)
Level 2: Varicose veins (3 mm or greater in diameter)
Level 3: oedema (swelling)
Level 4: changes in skin pigmentation (skin colouring)
Level 5: healed venous ulcer (chronic blood leakage under the sun)
Level 6: Active venous ulcer (chronic blood leakage breaking through the skin)
It is important to note that not everyone with spider or varicose veins will progress through all these stages. Vein experts do not yet know exactly why some people progress and others do not, although they see a strong genetic or hereditary component in this process. So, while all varicose veins should be evaluated by a specialist, if you have a family history of progressive venous disease, it’s particularly important that you get your veins examined especially if you have swelling, pigmentation or an ulcer.
If you already have swelling (Level 3) or changes in the colour of your skin (Level 4), the sooner you get treatment the better. These are not merely cosmetic problems that will go away on their own. What’s more, the higher levels are more difficult to treat and may take longer to resolve. Ulcers (Levels 5 and 6), which are the result of chronic and untreated leakage from varicose veins, can be particularly difficult to treat.
In terms of treatment options, compression stockings only provide symptom relief and cannot slow or reverse the progression of venous disease. There are now several minimally invasive treatment options available such as sclerotherapy and endogenous ablation that can be performed in a doctor’s clinic with no need for surgery or hospitalisation.
The right treatment for you will depend on the extent and location of your venous disease, and a venous health examination with ultrasound guidance will help your vein specialist offer you the most appropriate treatment options for your particular condition.
If you’re concerned about your veins, or if you’ve let your varicose veins go untreated for a while, we advise getting a scan and assessment. venous health evaluation. There are effective treatments for vein disease that will help minimise your symptoms and improve your circulation.