Varicose veins are not just unsightly. Findings of a new study have also suggested that their appearance is associated with potentially deadly blood clots.
Varicose veins are gnarled and enlarged veins, which commonly show up in the legs and feet. They can be caused by age. As people get older, their veins lose elasticity, causing the valves in the veins to become weak.
Varicose veins can also occur during pregnancy. Circulatory changes in the body and hormonal changes during pregnancy may result in enlarged veins in the legs. Some people are also predisposed to acquiring varicose veins. The risk factors include age, history, and gender.
Varicose Veins And Potentially Dangerous Blood Clots
Nearly 23 percent of adults in the United States have this condition albeit doctors do not often link this with serious health risks. Findings of a new study published in JAMA on Tuesday, however, show a link between varicose veins and potentially dangerous blood clots.
Study researcher Shyue-Luen Chang, a phlebologist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues found that there is a strong association between enlarged and lumpy varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis, a clot that forms in the deep veins of the body.
Looking at the data of more than 425,000 people from Taiwan's National Health Insurance program, the researchers found that varicose veins were associated with 5.3 times higher risk for deep vein thrombosis.
They also found a higher incidence of pulmonary embolisms and peripheral artery disease in those with varicose veins albeit the associations were less clear due to potential confounding factors.
Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the arteries of the lungs, while peripheral artery disease narrows the arteries that lead to the stomach, arms, legs, and head. Both conditions have serious health consequences that can potentially lead to death.
It remains unclear whether the varicose veins caused the clots or both conditions share the same cause.
"Among adults diagnosed with varicose veins, there was a significantly increased risk of incident DVT; the findings for PE and PAD are less clear due to the potential for confounding," the researchers wrote in their study.
"Whether the association between varicose veins and DVT is causal or represents a common set of risk factors requires further research," the researchers said.
Not Just A Cosmetic Concern
The researchers said that people with varicose veins may have to be monitored and evaluated early because the condition is not just a cosmetic problem.
"Varicose veins are not merely a cosmetic or symptomatic concern, because they may be associated with increasing risk of more serious disease," Chang said.