Do varicose veins present any health risks?

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Dr. Honesto “Sto” Poblete
Concerned about your health? Experts from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton are ready to answer readers’ questions. Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjuhh.edu

I have some veins in my leg that are bumpy and swollen. I don’t mind the way they look, but are there symptoms or complications I should watch out for if they start to become a health problem?

While I can’t diagnose them for sure without examining you, it sounds like you may have varicose veins or venous disease, a very common condition that up to 70 percent of women and 40 percent of men over the age of 60 experience in some form.

Some cases of varicose veins are mild enough to be considered a cosmetic condition. But you could be dealing with a more serious case of venous disease if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or complications: chronic leg pain, swelling, skin changes, rupture with significant bleeding; phlebitis, or inflammation on the veins; chronic ulcers or non-healing wounds.

Some studies have also shown a relationship to deep vein thrombosis or clots and varicose veins, but this remains controversial.

If you start to experience serious issues with your varicose veins, or if you just want to have them evaluated further, talk to your primary care provider about a referral to a vascular surgeon or specialist. A 10-minute screening can go a long way to preventing further problems with your veins.

To help lower the risk of developing more varicose veins, stay active, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid standing for long periods of time and straining. Avoiding excess sun-exposure may also help lessen the development of the smaller spider-veins.

— Dr. Honesto “Sto” Poblete, MD, RWJ Vein & Vascular Surgery, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician. Concerned about your health? Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjuhh.edu