What Happens if Varicose Veins Are Left Untreated?

Dr. Gulshan Sethi

What Happens if Varicose Veins Are Left Untreated?

Varicose veins are a common condition that affects many people worldwide. While they are often perceived as a cosmetic issue, the reality is that varicose veins can lead to significant health problems if not properly managed. Dr. Gulshan Sethi, an esteemed specialist at the Veins Center of Long Island, emphasizes the importance of understanding the potential risks associated with untreated varicose veins. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various complications that can arise from leaving varicose veins untreated, the reasons behind these complications, and the treatments available to manage and prevent these issues.

Understanding Varicose Veins

Before delving into the complications of untreated varicose veins, it is crucial to understand what they are and why they occur. Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen veins that often appear blue or dark purple and are usually found on the legs and feet. They develop when the valves within the veins, which regulate blood flow, become damaged or weakened. This causes blood to pool in the veins, leading to their characteristic bulging appearance.

Several factors can contribute to the development of varicose veins, including genetics, age, pregnancy, obesity, prolonged standing or sitting, and hormonal changes. While they are common, particularly among older adults and women, they should not be ignored due to the potential for serious health issues.

Potential Complications of Untreated Varicose Veins

1. Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)

One of the most significant complications of untreated varicose veins is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI). CVI occurs when the veins in the legs are unable to efficiently return blood to the heart. This condition is often a direct result of prolonged varicose veins, where the increased pressure and blood pooling lead to further weakening of the vein walls and valves.

Symptoms of CVI include:

  • Swelling in the lower legs and ankles
  • Pain or a feeling of heaviness in the legs
  • Skin changes, such as discoloration or thickening
  • Ulcers or sores on the legs, particularly around the ankles

CVI can severely impact a person’s quality of life, making it difficult to walk or stand for extended periods. If left untreated, it can lead to more severe complications, such as venous ulcers and infections.

2. Venous Ulcers

Venous ulcers are another serious complication that can arise from untreated varicose veins. These are open sores that typically develop around the ankles and lower legs due to prolonged pressure and poor blood circulation. The skin in these areas becomes damaged, leading to the formation of ulcers that are slow to heal and prone to infection.

Signs and symptoms of venous ulcers include:

  • A shallow wound with uneven edges
  • Surrounding skin that may be red, swollen, and irritated
  • Persistent pain or discomfort
  • Drainage or pus from the wound, indicating infection

Venous ulcers are not only painful but can also lead to severe infections if not properly treated. These infections can spread to surrounding tissues and even enter the bloodstream, posing a significant health risk.

3. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs. While DVT can occur independently, it is more likely in individuals with untreated varicose veins. The sluggish blood flow and pooling associated with varicose veins create an environment conducive to clot formation.

Symptoms of DVT include:

  • Swelling in one leg (rarely both legs)
  • Pain or tenderness in the leg, often starting in the calf
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg
  • A feeling of warmth in the affected leg

DVT is a medical emergency because the clot can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal. Therefore, prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial.

4. Superficial Thrombophlebitis

Superficial Thrombophlebitis is the inflammation of a vein just below the surface of the skin, often accompanied by a blood clot. This condition is more common in people with varicose veins, as the abnormal vein structure increases the risk of inflammation and clot formation.

Symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis include:

  • Redness and warmth over the affected vein
  • Pain and tenderness along the vein
  • Swelling in the area of the vein
  • A hard, cord-like vein that can be felt under the skin

While superficial thrombophlebitis is generally less dangerous than DVT, it can still cause significant discomfort and may lead to complications if the clot extends into deeper veins.

5. Bleeding

Varicose veins close to the surface of the skin are more susceptible to injury and bleeding. Even minor trauma can cause these veins to burst, leading to significant blood loss. In some cases, the bleeding may be difficult to control and require medical intervention.

Bleeding complications include:

  • Persistent bleeding from a vein that is difficult to stop
  • Increased risk of infection in the affected area
  • Potential for significant blood loss, leading to anemia or other issues

Preventing bleeding complications involves protecting the legs from injury and addressing varicose veins through appropriate treatments.

6. Skin Changes and Dermatitis

Prolonged varicose veins can cause various skin changes, collectively known as venous stasis dermatitis. This condition occurs when poor circulation leads to inflammation and skin damage.

Symptoms of venous stasis dermatitis include:

  • Itching and scaling of the skin
  • Red or brown discoloration, particularly around the ankles
  • Thickened, leathery skin
  • Ulceration in severe cases

These skin changes can be uncomfortable and unsightly, significantly affecting a person’s quality of life. Without treatment, the condition can progress to more severe forms of dermatitis and increase the risk of skin infections.

Treatment Options for Varicose Veins

Recognizing the potential complications of untreated varicose veins underscores the importance of seeking appropriate treatment. Dr. Gulshan Sethi at the Veins Center of Long Island offers various treatment options to manage varicose veins and prevent complications. These treatments range from lifestyle changes to minimally invasive procedures, each tailored to the severity of the condition and the patient’s individual needs.

1. Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care

For mild cases of varicose veins, lifestyle changes and self-care measures can be effective in managing symptoms and preventing progression. These measures include:

  • Exercise: Regular physical activity, particularly activities that improve leg strength and circulation, such as walking or swimming, can help reduce symptoms.
  • Elevating the Legs: Elevating the legs above heart level for short periods throughout the day can reduce swelling and improve blood flow.
  • Compression Stockings: Wearing compression stockings helps support the veins and promote better blood flow, reducing swelling and discomfort.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce pressure on the veins and improve overall circulation.
  • Avoiding Prolonged Standing or Sitting: Taking breaks to move around and stretch the legs can prevent blood from pooling in the veins.

2. Medical Treatments

For more severe cases of varicose veins, medical treatments may be necessary. Dr. Sethi offers a range of minimally invasive procedures designed to effectively treat varicose veins with minimal discomfort and downtime.

a. Sclerotherapy

Sclerotherapy is a procedure where a solution is injected directly into the varicose veins, causing them to collapse and eventually fade. This treatment is effective for smaller varicose veins and spider veins.

Benefits of sclerotherapy:

  • Quick and relatively painless procedure
  • Minimal downtime, allowing patients to return to normal activities quickly
  • Effective in reducing the appearance of varicose veins

b. Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)

EVLT involves using laser energy to close off and seal the affected veins. A laser fiber is inserted into the vein through a small incision, and the heat from the laser causes the vein to collapse.

Benefits of EVLT:

  • Minimally invasive with a small incision
  • High success rate with long-lasting results
  • Performed under local anesthesia, reducing the risks associated with general anesthesia

c. Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

RFA uses radiofrequency energy to heat and close varicose veins. Similar to EVLT, a catheter is inserted into the vein, and radiofrequency energy is applied to the vein walls, causing them to collapse and seal shut.

Benefits of RFA:

  • Minimally invasive with a small incision
  • Effective for treating larger varicose veins
  • Quick recovery time, allowing patients to resume normal activities soon after the procedure

d. Ambulatory Phlebectomy

Ambulatory phlebectomy involves the removal of varicose veins through small incisions in the skin. This procedure is typically used for larger veins that are close to the surface of the skin.

Benefits of ambulatory phlebectomy:

  • Direct removal of varicose veins, providing immediate results
  • Minimally invasive with small incisions
  • Performed under local anesthesia

e. VenaSeal Closure System

The VenaSeal closure system uses a medical adhesive to seal varicose veins. A small amount of adhesive is injected into the vein, causing it to close and reroute blood to healthier veins.

Benefits of the VenaSeal closure system:

  • Minimally invasive with no need for heat or anesthesia
  • Quick procedure with minimal discomfort
  • No need for compression stockings after the procedure

3. Surgical Treatments

In rare cases where varicose veins are extensive and severe, surgical intervention may be required. These procedures are more invasive and typically reserved for cases where other treatments have not been effective.

a. Vein Stripping and Ligation

Vein stripping and ligation involve tying off and removing the affected vein through small incisions. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia and requires a longer recovery period compared to minimally invasive treatments.

Benefits of vein stripping and ligation:

  • Effective for severe cases of varicose veins
  • Direct removal of problematic veins
  • Can provide long-lasting results

b. Surgical Bypass

In cases where a significant portion of the vein is damaged, surgical bypass may be performed to reroute blood flow around the affected area. This procedure is more complex and requires a longer recovery period.

Benefits of surgical bypass:

  • Effective for severe venous insufficiency
  • Can improve blood flow and reduce symptoms
  • Suitable for cases where other treatments have failed

Preventing Complications: The Role of Early Intervention

The complications associated with untreated varicose veins highlight the importance of early intervention. By addressing varicose veins before they progress, patients can significantly reduce their risk of developing more severe health issues.

Dr. Gulshan Sethi and the team at the Veins Center of Long Island emphasize the importance of regular check-ups and early treatment. By identifying varicose veins in their early stages, patients can benefit from less invasive treatments and prevent the onset of complications such as CVI, venous ulcers, DVT, and more.

The Importance of Professional Care

While lifestyle changes and self-care measures can help manage mild cases of varicose veins, professional medical care is crucial for more severe cases. Seeking treatment from a qualified specialist like Dr. Sethi ensures that patients receive accurate diagnoses and effective treatments tailored to their specific needs.

Personalized Treatment Plans

At the Veins Center of Long Island, Dr. Sethi and his team create personalized treatment plans based on each patient’s unique condition and medical history. This approach ensures that patients receive the most appropriate and effective treatments for their varicose veins, reducing the risk of complications and improving their overall quality of life.

State-of-the-Art Technology

The Veins Center of Long Island utilizes state-of-the-art technology and minimally invasive techniques to treat varicose veins. These advanced methods offer several benefits, including reduced pain, shorter recovery times, and excellent cosmetic results. Patients can expect comprehensive care that addresses both the medical and aesthetic aspects of varicose veins.

Ongoing Support and Follow-Up

Effective varicose vein treatment extends beyond the initial procedure. Dr. Sethi and his team provide ongoing support and follow-up care to ensure that patients achieve the best possible outcomes. This includes monitoring the healing process, addressing any concerns, and providing guidance on maintaining vein health.


Varicose veins are more than just a cosmetic concern; they can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Chronic Venous Insufficiency, venous ulcers, Deep Vein Thrombosis, superficial thrombophlebitis, bleeding, and skin changes are among the potential risks associated with untreated varicose veins. Early intervention and appropriate treatment are essential to prevent these complications and maintain overall health.

Dr. Gulshan Sethi and the Veins Center of Long Island offer a range of effective treatments for varicose veins, from lifestyle changes and self-care measures to minimally invasive procedures and surgical interventions. By seeking professional care and addressing varicose veins early, patients can significantly reduce their risk of complications and enjoy improved quality of life.

If you are experiencing varicose veins or are concerned about their potential complications, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. Contact the Veins Center of Long Island today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Sethi and explore your treatment options.

For more information, visit Veins Center of Long Island.