Varicose Veins Bleeding: What to Know and Do

Woman in pain from varicose veins

Varicose veins are often seen as only a cosmetic issue, but when they bleed, they can become a serious medical problem that needs to be addressed immediately and appropriately. All people with this medical condition should consult with a doctor to learn how to manage bleeding risks and reduce recurrence through treatment.

Varicose veins that appear on the lower extremities are the most vulnerable to injury and can be the most complicated to treat. Trauma, such as a cut or bumping into an object, can cause a sudden bleed that may be difficult to stop. Both gravity and higher blood pressure weaken these blood vessels and increase blood loss when trauma occurs, making it easier for small cuts to become serious problems. Hemorrhages may result in severe blood loss and lead to death, and bleeding may reoccur if the underlying cause is not treated appropriately.

Immediate Treatment and Prevention

The best immediate treatment for this type of hemorrhage is pressure. A hand or a washcloth can help stem the bleed at first, long enough to find and apply a more appropriate pressure dressing. Compression bands can be used. Pressure should be applied for at least 15 minutes before releasing to check whether the blood has stopped. If the flow of blood has not stopped, repeat the pressure application. This may be done up to three times for a total of 45 minutes.

Elevation goes hand in hand with pressure in stopping a bleed. Elevation greatly reduces gravity and allows coagulation of the blood. If it is possible, elevate the body part above the heart and keep the rest of the body lying flat. Continue to apply pressure.

To reduce the likelihood of developing a bruise, a patient should elevate the body part above the heart and apply an ice pack or cold pack to the area for the next one to two hours. This can reduce swelling and minimize blood pooling in the surrounding tissue.

Seek immediate medical assistance if the hemorrhage does not stop on its own. Blood loss can be life-threatening. Tourniquets, when properly applied by medical professionals with appropriate training, can be helpful, but people without medical training and good intentions can do more harm than good by cutting off a patient's blood flow with a tourniquet. It is more appropriate for people without medical training to continue to apply pressure, elevate the body part, and call on trained emergency first responders.

What to Do After Bleeding Stops

After emergency bleeds, patients should consult with a doctor about the best course of treatment to minimize risk of future bleeds. This may include traditional treatments such as the use of compression stockings; it could also include medical interventions like sclerotherapy, laser therapy, or vein removal via surgery.

Varicose vein bleeding can be life-threatening, but with fast intervention, proper first aid, and treatment of underlying causes to reduce recurrence, they can be managed.

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