Varicose veins are not just a cosmetic concern. A new study suggests that the unsightly condition is also linked to potentially deadly blood clots.
Varicose veins are enlarged, gnarled veins that are commonly seen in the legs and feet. They can be cause by aging, as veins lose elasticity over the years, causing the valves to weaken, Tech Times reports. Varicose veins can also happen during pregnancy, when hormonal and circulatory changes may bring about enlarged veins in the legs. It may also be genetic, and other factors for developing varicose veins include gender, age, and medical history.
Close to 23% of adults in the United States have varicose veins – a condition that is not normally associated with more severe health risks.
But researchers in Taiwan found a strong link between enlarged, lumpy varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots that form in the veins deep inside the body. Chang said,
Varicose veins are not merely a cosmetic or symptomatic concern, because they may be associated with increasing risk of more serious disease.
Shyue-Luen Chang, a phlebologist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues looked at health data of over 425,000 people from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance program. They found that having varicose veins was associated with a 5.3 times higher risk for deep vein thrombosis.
In addition, the researchers found higher risks for pulmonary embolisms and peripheral artery disease in patients with varicose veins, though these findings were less clear due to some factors in the study.
Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that happens in the lung arteries, while peripheral artery disease causes narrowing in the arteries leading to the arms, legs, stomach, and head. Both conditions can potentially cause more severe health problems, including death.
People with varicose veins may need to be monitored more closely, the researchers recommended in the study, in order to determine if there is a more serious health risk involved.