Varicose veins are associated with higher risk of more serious vascular diseases

Varicose veins are enlarged, twisted blood vessels that appear darker blue and stick out of your skin, usually in the legs. They’re quite common, and are generally harmless.

Now, a large study in Taiwan involving over 425,000 adults has found that the presence of varicose veins was associated with a significantly increased risk of serious vascular diseases such as deep vein thromboses (DVT), pulmonary embolisms, and peripheral arterial disease.

The researchers used claims data from the Taiwanese National Health Insurance database for their study.

212,984 adults (over 20 year old) with varicose veins were included in the study. Another 212,984 adults without varicose veins were also randomly selected from the database to be used as the ‘control’ group. Participants in the control group was matched with the varicose vein group for gender and age, and the researchers also adjusted their analysis to control for other confounding factors such as comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, and malignancy.

Compared to the control group, people with varicose veins had a higher incidence of DVT, with 10,360 cases of DVT for patients with varicose veins compared to only 1,980 cases for patients without. There was also a higher incidence of pulmonary embolisms, as well as peripheral arterial disease in patients with varicose veins.

The study also found that men with varicose veins were likely to have peripheral arterial disease than women (p<0.001).

The researchers also found that younger patients with varicose veins, especially those between 20-34 years old, were more likely to have DVT and pulmonary embolisms, and the risk was lower in older age groups.

A major limitation of this study is that it is based on claims data, which don’t include patients who did not seek medical assistance. Varicose veins are generally harmless, with only “cosmetic” consequences and present no other serious symptoms. This means that most people with varicose veins probably don’t seek medical attention, and the patients included in this study might represent only very severe cases of varicose veins.

Therefore, although this study conducted a rigorous statistical analysis on a large number of participants, further research will still need to be conducted to confirm these observations.

Reference to the study:

About Rina Soetanto

Rina Soetanto is currently doing her PhD in molecular biology. She also has an extensive background in pharmacology and pre-clinical cancer research, as well as an undergraduate science degree from the Australian National University with a double major in neuroscience and immunology.

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