Deeper Than The Skin
There’s nothing comfortable about varicose veins; not only are they unsightly, but they lead to sensitivity and heaviness in the legs. But the assumption that they’re just a skin problem, according to recent research, is false. According to Dr. Shyue-Luen Chang and a team of researchers from the Department of Dermatology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taoyuan, China, this health issue is associated with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots in the legs, which can become very dangerous if they spread to the heart and lungs. 
This is big news; it underscores the extent to which the circulatory system is interconnected and highlights the importance of vascular health. Let’s take a closer look at this study.
Blood clots in the legs as in DVT can wreak havoc on the body, and there are two particularly troubling conditions that can be associated with it (and, by extension, varicose veins): pulmonary embolism (PE) and periphery arterial disease (PAD). The former is when a blood clot gets to the lungs, leading to shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough. Untreated cases can quickly get very dangerous and lead to death. PAD, or clots or severe restrictions on circulation in the legs, seriously impedes necessary blood flow and can also lead to serious consequences.
Given the severity of these conditions, Dr. Chang and the team’s findings are certainly significant; varicose veins could be a sign of much more serious health issues.
Time & Numbers
But how did they perform their research? In order to assess the relationship between varicose veins, DVT, PE, and PAD, from 2001 to 2014, the researchers looked at data from 425,968 Taiwanese adults, half whom reporting having varicose veins. They tracked incidence of DVT, PAD and PE, and used statistical analysis to assess the data.  Such a large research pool and lengthy time-period allowed them to see broader trends and made their findings more generalizable.
The Clear & The Confounding
The most clear-cut result of the analysis was an association between varicose veins and incidents of DVT. At an average follow up of 7.5 years after enrolling in the study, a significantly higher portion of varicose vein patients reported this condition compared to the others. Based on this calculation, this population was 5.3 times more likely to develop DVT.  While the connection is there, the researchers couldn’t quite ascertain whether varicose veins were actually the root cause.
There were also some associations found between varicose veins and PE and PAD; however, the results were not as robust due to confounding factors. Cases like this can overlap, so it becomes harder to ascertain the actual nature of the relationship.
Considerations In Care
While no causal relationship between varicose veins and these other conditions was found here—that’s where future work should go—Dr. Chang and the team’s research underscores the importance of effective and sometimes aggressive treatment, especially in more severe cases. As they point out, “[v]aricose veins are not merely a cosmetic or symptomatic concern because they may be associated with increasing risk of more serious disease.” 
But while the true nature of these associations are explored further, the take-away is that varicose veins represent potentially very harmful circulation problems. This means that if you or a loved one have them, it’s absolutely essential that you seek treatment. Don’t let things go, and don’t let them get worse; what may seem like a problem of appearance and comfort could be a sign of something much more dangerous. Being proactive about finding the right help could be a lifesaver.
If you suffer with varicose veins, the team at Hamilton Vein Center is ready to help. By employing the latest in techniques and technologies in emphasizing positive outcomes, they’ve helped countless patients find the treatment they need. Learn more about what they do by calling their San Antonio office at (210) 504-3404, the Austin location at (512) 551-1403, or Houston at (281) 565-0033 today!
- Chang, Shyue-Luen, Yau-Li Huang, Mei-Ching Lee, Sindy Hu, Yen-Chang Hsiao, Su-Wei Chang, Chee Jen Chang, and Pei-Chun Chen. 2018. “Association Of Varicose Veins With Incident Venous Thromboembolism And Peripheral Artery Disease”. JAMA319 (8): 807. American Medical Association (AMA). doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0246.
- “Varicose Veins Tied To Higher Odds For Blood Clots | Welcome To Medication Junction”. 2018. Com. Accessed March 13 2018. http://www.medicationjunction.com/varicose-veins-tied-to-higher-odds-for-blood-clots/.