When you google “Stages of Varicose Veins” or ask doctors or other people, you will get different answers from different sources. Some articles will say 5 and the other 7 and you will end up getting confused.
If that is the case don’t worry, we will clear this confusion.
Stages of Varicose Veins
Let us first explain the different stages of varicose veins. Basically, there are four stages of varicose veins, they are
- Varicose veins (Stage 1)
- Edema or Swelling (Stage 2)
- Skin Discoloration (Stage 3)
- Ulcer (Stage 4)
Varicose Veins (Stage 1)
When the veins in the legs get swollen, twisted or bulged then it is stage 1 varicose veins. You may experience burning, tingling, numbness and/or itchy feeling in your leg. If it is ignored then it can lead to more serious issues.
Consulting a doctor at this stage is advisable, since treating varicose veins at this stage can help you prevent surgery. The doctor will usually prefer medicines and conservative treatment like exercise, stockings and lifestyle modifications.
Edema (Stage 2)
If left untreated, varicose veins will progress and as a result, your legs will start to swell. This stage where leg swells is called Edema. Keeping legs at an elevated position might help with swelling.
By consulting a doctor at this stage will help you prevent surgery. The doctor might prescribe medicines and varicose veins compression stockings,
Skin Discoloration (Stage 3)
At this stage, you will start to see changes in skin colour. The skin may also become thinner and discoloured to reddish-brown or whitish in colour. At this stage, the skin is easily injured and takes more time to heal.
The doctor will try to resort to medicines and conservative management. If symptoms fail to improve, the doctor will prefer minimally invasive treatments like EVLT.
EVLT is a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon uses the laser to treat varicose veins. It is one-day procedure with minimal recovery time. The best thing is patients can go back home on the same day as surgery and return to their job the next day.
Ulcers (Stage 4)
This is the final stage of varicose veins. Your leg will be swollen with discoloured skin and an ulcer may develop. If left untreated it can be extremely painful and the veins may burst.
Treatment at this stage is pretty much limited to minimally invasive treatments like EVLT or Surgery.
What happens if you ignore Stage 4 Varicose Veins?
If varicose veins of stage 4 are left untreated then it might lead to non-healing skin ulcers which can turn into skin cancer. Sometimes the varicose veins could turn into DVT or Thrombophlebitis or they could even burst.
Why does the number of stages vary in different sources?
As we have read above, there are four stages of varicose veins. But, some doctors will further divide these stages to specify a particular condition and for their convenience. For example, some doctors further classify stage 4 into Healed Ulcer and Active Ulcer as 2 separate stages. This will be convenient for them. Some others will include spider veins as stage 1 therefore effectively increasing the number of stages of varicose veins.
Therefore, when you read a different number of the stage from different sources, don’t worry. That particular person has further classified the above mentioned four stages for their convenience.