Although varicose veins can cause a myriad of health problems and discomfort, they have widely been considered benign. However, this mindset is gradually changing as independent medical studies continue to affirm that untreated varicose veins may be a contributing factor in early mortality, especially in aging populations.
Varicose veins are known to be a cause of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or the formation of blood clots deep within the calf or thigh muscle. If these clots release or break apart it can lead to a pulmonary embolism (PE), a blockage of blood flow to the lungs.
A pulmonary embolism can be a deceptive condition. The effects can be so catastrophic to a patient that the condition that caused the pulmonary event is often misdiagnosed. Therefore, the underlying problems that caused the initial thrombosis is also not accurately diagnosed.
Post-surgical complications have only recently begun to be attributed in part to varicose veins. In many instances orthopedic surgeons are requiring varicose vein treatment prior to hip replacement or other joint surgeries to reduce adverse outcomes after surgery.
One of the most comprehensive studies of the effect of varicose veins on mortality rates was conducted using detailed medical records from Taiwan. The study compared patients with varicose veins to similar groups without the disease and found the risk of death was notably higher for older patients who had varicose veins.
For instance, men over the age of 65 with varicose veins had 37% higher risk of mortality and more than 200% higher risk of having a major coronary event. The chance of having a venous thrombotic event, including DVT and PE, increased a staggering 38 times for seniors with advanced symptoms of varicose veins.
Surprisingly, patients who also presented with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, or coronary artery disease had no significantly higher risk beyond the increase associated with varicose veins only. However, those with varicose veins and diabetes had a 150% higher risk of mortality compared with those without varicose veins.
Another study showed a risk of fatal bleeding induced by varicose veins and varicose ulceration. This was most commonly caused by the perforation of a pre-existing enlarged vein through weakened skin, as the result of an injury, accident, or crime.
Studies like these show the increasing awareness on the importance of diagnosing and treating varicose veins, especially in the elderly. The increased risk of mortality posed by the presence of varicose veins is becoming more clear with each subsequent study.
If you suspect you may have varicose veins or have already been diagnosed, it is important that you act soon. Top-rated, board certified vascular surgeon Dr. Christopher Boyes and his staff are available to assist and treat your venous condition. Located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, patients come from all areas to seek their advice and services at Coastal Vein and Vascular Specialists.