The severe complications do not effect most people, but when things go bad, they go really bad and it is not possible to predict.
- People with varicose veins are at a significantly higher risk of getting deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This can cause permanent leg swelling and if a clot moves up to the heart, death can occur.
- Untreated varicose veins can cause skin damage with Varicose eczema, discoloured skin (lipodermato-sclerosis) and ultimately leg ulcers which are very difficult to heal.
- Phlebitis is a localised clot that forms in a varicose vein rather than in a deep vein. It causes severe pain and can progress to a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Doctors often prescribe antibiotics which is completely useless as it is not an infection. It will normally resolve after a few weeks but commonly recurs and should always be referred for treatment.
- Bleeding. This can be very severe. The only way to stop the bleeding is to lie down and put the leg up in the air. Simply applying pressure isn’t enough. Rarely patients have bled to death from this.
- Leg ulcers occur when the high pressure blood in the veins damage the skin and the skin breaks down to create a large oozing hole in the leg. Even with best treatment only 50% heal within 3 months and during this time heavy bandages are required. They often get infected and smell. The bandages limit mobility. Latest guidelines say that if anyone gets an ulcer, they should be referred for minimally invasive treatment by a surgeon after 2 weeks. This rarely happens.