Varicose Veins Tied to Higher Odds for Blood Clots

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Those tangled blue varicose veins that can pop up on your legs as you age may be more than unsightly: New research suggests they might quintuple your risk of dangerous blood clots.

Known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT), these clots in the legs can be life-threatening if they travel to the lungs or heart, Taiwanese researchers said.

“Varicose veins are not merely a cosmetic or symptomatic concern, because they may be associated with increasing risk of more serious disease,” explained lead researcher Dr. Shyue-Luen Chang, a phlebologist in the department of dermatology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taoyuan.

Varicose veins are a common condition affecting about 23 percent of American adults, the researchers said.

“Patients with varicose veins may warrant careful monitoring and early evaluation,” Chang added.

Among a group of more than 425,000 people, half of whom had varicose veins, Chang’s team found that the condition was associated with 5.3 times increased risk of deep venous thrombosis.

Whether varicose veins cause the clots, or are a real risk for them, however, is not known, Chang said. More research is needed since the study did not prove that varicose veins cause the clots, he said.

Not much is known about varicose veins and the risk for these other diseases, Chang said. “Elucidating potential associations between varicose veins and health-threatening diseases is important.

The researchers also found a trend for an increased risk of pulmonary embolisms or PE (clots in the lung) or PAD (narrowing of the leg arteries) among those with varicose veins, but they weren’t able to tell if varicose veins were a real risk for these conditions.

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SOURCES: Shyue-Luen Chang, M.D., phlebologist, department of dermatology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taoyuan, Taiwan; Maja Zaric, M.D., interventional cardiologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Feb. 27, 2018, Journal of the American Medical Association

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