How Are Varicose Veins And Blood Clots Related?

Illustration of superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis.


The short answer is yes, but before you start worrying too much, let us clarify.  There are two different types of blood clots – superficial (also called thrombophlebitis) and deeper clots known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is the dangerous kind of blood clot that can be fatal. Fortunately, varicose veins only increase the risk for superficial blood clots. Superficial clots associated with varicose veins do not usually travel to the lungs or cause a pulmonary embolism (PE) or blood clot in the lung.  

Superficial Phlebitis

When veins bulge or become twisted, as with varicose veins, blood flow through them can slow down. Because varicose veins are just below the surface, sometimes an injury to a vein can cause a blood clot. Superficial veins aren’t surrounded by muscles which act as pumps for your veins. Without a pump to move it out, a blood clot can stick to the wall of your vein and be hard to dislodge. With superficial blood clots, symptoms include redness, swelling and pain and tenderness. Superficial phlebitis usually feels like a hard, tender lump on your leg. Fortunately, these types of clots usually go away on their own. Apply a warm compress and take aspirin to help with symptoms and in a few days your inflammation should decrease. After a few weeks, the hardness of your vein will subside. 

DVT Blood Clots

DVT blood clots are a whole different story. They do not usually occur with varicose veins because varicose veins generally affect the veins close to the surface of the skin. DVT is similar to superficial thrombophlebitis, but the blood clot forms in a deeper, larger vein. Those veins carry more blood and connect to other parts of the body. If your muscles squeeze one of these blood clots out of your leg, there’s a chance it could enter your lungs, which could cause a condition known as a pulmonary embolism which can be deadly without immediate emergency medical attention. With deep vein thrombosis, deep calf or thigh pain and swelling of the leg are typical symptoms. 

However, with severe varicose veins, there can be a risk that a DVT might occur.  A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that people with varicose veins are five times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Your healthcare provider can help you assess your risk for deep vein thrombosis. 

How Do You Tell the Difference Between a Superficial Blood Clot and DVT?

The differences between the two types can be subtle when it comes to diagnosing them yourself. It’s best to see a doctor if you suspect you have any blood clot. A doctor can diagnose it properly. For superficial thrombophlebitis, you’ll have peace of mind with a few simple home remedies. For the more serious DVT, your physician will prescribe the best treatment, but at least you will have caught it before it became deadly.

If you suffer from varicose veins and would like to know your treatment options, schedule an appointment at Vein Clinic of Greater Kansas City. We have locations in Overland Park, KS and Liberty, MO. Let us discuss your many treatment options and find one that’s perfect for you.