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Complications - Varicose veins

Varicose veins can cause complications because they stop your blood flowing properly.

Most people who have varicose veins won't develop complications. If they do, it's usually several years after varicose veins first appear.

Some possible complications of varicose veins are explained below.


Varicose veins near the surface of your skin can sometimes bleed if you cut or bump your leg. The bleeding may be difficult to stop.

You should lie down, raise your leg and apply direct pressure to the wound. Seek immediate medical advice if this doesn't stop the bleeding.

Blood clots

If blood clots form in veins located just under the surface of your skin (superficial veins), it could lead to conditions such as: 

Chronic venous insufficiency

If the blood in your veins doesn't flow properly, it can interfere with the way your skin exchanges oxygen, nutrients and waste products with your blood.

If the exchange is disrupted over a long period of time, it's known as chronic venous insufficiency.

Chronic venous insufficiency can sometimes cause other conditions to develop, including:

  • varicose eczema – a condition that causes your skin to become red, scaly and flaky
  • lipodermatosclerosis – which causes your skin, usually around the calf area, to become hardened and tight, and you may find it turns a red or brown colour
  • venous leg ulcers – this develops when there's increased pressure in the veins of your lower leg, which may eventually cause an ulcer

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2017
Next review due: 23 March 2020