Bleeding Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and twisted. Valves in the veins help return blood from the leg to the heart. If these valves are damaged, blood flows backwards and backs up into the veins in the leg near the skin. This causes the veins to become larger because of increased pressure within. Sometimes these veins bleed.

CAUSES

Factors that can lead to bleeding varicose veins include:

  • Thinning of the skin that covers the veins. This skin is stretched as the veins enlarge.

  • Weak and thinning walls of the varicose veins. These thin walls are part of the reason why blood is not flowing normally to the heart.

  • Having high pressure in the veins. This high pressure occurs because the blood is not flowing freely back up to the heart.

  • Injury. Even a small injury to a varicose vein can cause bleeding.

  • Open wounds. A sore may develop near a varicose vein and not heal. This makes bleeding more likely.

  • Taking medicine that thins the blood. These medicines may include aspirin, anti-inflammatory medicine, and other blood thinners.

SYMPTOMS

If bleeding is on the outside surface of the skin, blood can be seen. Sometimes, the bleeding stays under the skin. If this happens, the blue or purple area will spread beyond the vein. This discoloration may be visible.

DIAGNOSIS

To decide if you have a bleeding varicose vein, your caregiver may:

  • Ask about your symptoms. This will include when you first saw bleeding.

  • Ask about how long you have had varicose veins and if they cause you problems.

  • Ask about your overall health.

  • Ask about possible causes, like recent cuts or if the area near the varicose veins was bumped or injured.

  • Examine the skin or leg that concerns you. Your caregiver will probably feel the veins.

  • Order imaging tests. These create detailed pictures of the veins.

TREATMENT

The first goal of treating bleeding varicose veins is to stop the bleeding. Then, the aim is to keep any bleeding from happening again. Treatment will depend on the cause of the bleeding and how bad it is. Ask your caregiver about what would be best for you. Options include:

  • Raising (elevating) your leg. Lie down with your leg propped up on a pillow or cushion. Your foot should be above your heart.

  • Applying pressure to the spot that is bleeding. The bleeding should stop in a short time.

  • Wearing elastic stocking that "compress" your legs (compression stockings). An elastic bandage may do the same thing.

  • Applying an antibiotic cream on sores that are not healing.

  • Surgically removing or closing off the bleeding varicose veins.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Apply any creams that your caregiver prescribed. Follow the directions carefully.

  • Wear compression stockings or any special wraps that were prescribed. Make sure you know:

  • If you should wear them every day.

  • How long you should wear them.

  • If veins were removed or closed, a bandage (dressing) will probably cover the area. Make sure you know:

  • How often the dressing should be changed.

  • Whether the area can get wet.

  • When you can leave the skin uncovered.

  • Check your skin every day. Look for new sores and signs of bleeding.

  • To prevent future bleeding:

  • Use extra care in situations where you could cut your legs. Shaving, for example, or working outside in the garden.

  • Try to keep your legs elevated as much as possible. Lie down when you can.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have any questions about how to wear compression stockings or elastic bandages.

  • Your veins continue to bleed.

  • Sores develop near your varicose veins.

  • You have a sore that does not heal or gets bigger.

  • Pain increases in your leg.

  • The area around a varicose vein becomes warm, red, or tender to the touch.

  • You notice a yellowish fluid that smells bad coming from a spot where there was bleeding.

  • You develop a fever of more than 100.5° F (38.1° C).

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop a fever of more than 102° F (38.9° C).