Do Varicose Veins Increase The Risk For Deep Vein Thrombosis

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By Anthony Alfieri, DO, FACC  

Varicose veins are generally considered to be a cosmetic and bothersome problem, but are seldom thought to be a serious health risk. Researchers in Taiwan have recently investigated whether varicose veins are associated with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), and other peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): 

This occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins, usually in the legs. DVT can cause leg pain or swelling, but can also occur with no symptoms. DVT can be very serious because blood clots in your veins can break away, travel through the bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, which can block blood flow and cause a pulmonary embolism (PE).

Pulmonary Embolism (PE):  

The sudden blockage of a major artery in the lung, usually caused by a blood clot. In most cases, the clots are relatively small and are not deadly, but it can cause damage to the lungs regardless. Only in events where the clot is large and stops the blood flowing to the lungs, can PE be deadly.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): 

A circulatory issue where arteries narrow and blood flow to the limbs is reduced. PAD usually develops in the legs, which can cause leg pain when walking, however, some people who have PAD may have mild or no symptoms.

The researchers performing the study wanted to see if varicose veins increase the risk of developing DVT, PE or PAD. This study involved over 400,000 adults, aged 20 years and older between 2001 and 2013. There were 212,984 patients in the varicose vein group and 212,984 patients in the control group.  Each group consisted of approximately 70% women and the average age in both groups was about 54 years old. The researchers followed the patients in both groups for over 7 years.

The conclusion from this study was that patients with varicose veins are at a significant increased risk of DVT. They also concluded that patients with varicose veins may have a higher risk of PE and PAD, but due to undistinguishable factors that did not allow clarity in the relationship between varicose veins and PE and PAD, more studies will need to be done.

In a synopsis from Geoffrey Barnes M.D., at the American College of Cardiology, he states that many clinicians recognize an association between the presence of varicose veins and the future development of DVT.  The study referred to earlier confirms that there is greater than five-fold increased risk in DVT in patients diagnosed with varicose veins than the patients in the control group. He claims that although the association between varicose veins and PAD was not conclusive, the frequency of PAD is higher than DVT in most patients with varicose veins.

Your ability to move painlessly and without issues in your daily activities is both your transportation and your enjoyment. Varicose veins are not cosmetic issues, but could be the start of health issues that could affect your daily activities. A noninvasive ultrasound test will let you know if you have faulty valves in your veins, which is treatable. Join us at one of our free vein screenings or call and schedule a free vein screening to discuss your symptoms and learn more about varicose veins.




Anthony Alfieri, DO, FACC is a board certified interventional cardiologist who has been practicing in the New Castle County area for over twenty-five years. In that time he has seen and treated many forms of cardiovascular disease, one of which being the progressive and often painful and debilitating venous insufficiency, commonly described as varicose veins. Over the years, Dr. Alfieri came to realize that this problem was frequently underappreciated, misdiagnosed, and undertreated. It was this extensive experience and intense compassion for his patients that drove his desire to provide an effective and permanent treatment and led him to found Delaware Advanced Vein Center. With over twenty-five years of experience as an interventionalist, Dr. Alfieri is uniquely qualified to perform a multitude of vascular procedures with minimal discomfort and maximum, lasting results.


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