Sciatica and varicose veins are diagnoses which often share a relationship, since certain vein pathologies can cause symptoms similar to pseudo-sciatica in the affected areas of the legs. Even when the 2 conditions are not related, the incidence of misdiagnosis of one or both disorders can spell disaster for patients looking for effective treatment for their leg pain. I have personally seen several patients whose varicose veins were misdiagnosed, as well as several whose sciatica pain was mistakenly blamed on bad veins.
This essay will detail the link between vein abnormalities and the incidence of sciatica-like symptoms in the legs or feet.
Sciatica is a lower back, buttocks and leg pain syndrome most commonly blamed on a spinal causation in the lumbosacral area of the backbone. Meanwhile, varicose veins are an abnormal circulatory tissue process which creates inflammation, visual distortion and sometimes associated pain in the veins of the lower legs. Most cases of varicose veins are not painful, although some may be. However, this pain is rarely disabling, much unlike the pain associated with sciatica.
It should be known that the 2 conditions can exist together, but coincidentally, leading to diagnostic problems in many instances.
Varicose veins can be easily treated with a variety of invasive and noninvasive modalities. Most, but not all, varicose veins are visible under the skin. In cases where the problematic vein is not easily visible due to depth or pigmentation, misdiagnosis is common.
Likewise, when minor pain, tingling or numbness occurs in coincidence with varicose veins, the symptoms are often blamed on the venous abnormality, when in fact, they are due to a structural source in the spine, a structural issue outside the spinal anatomy, a disease process or an ischemic condition.
Correction of varicose veins is probably a good idea in most instances. If the pain remains, then the patient will know that the vein issues were coincidental and further diagnostic testing should be performed to achieve an accurate clinical picture of the true symptomatic complaint.
It may be difficult to pinpoint symptoms of varicose veins from those which might be caused by a sciatica or pseudo-sciatica process. Varicose vein pain syndromes often distinguish themselves from sciatica in the following ways:
The veins might itch and ulcerate.
The area is likely to swell.
The veins will be distorted and twisted in appearance.
There may be other related skin problems near the veins.
Rarely, varicose veins can be a real health problem, especially in morbidly obese people. Serious side effects of varicose veins can include tissue necrosis and deep vein thrombosis, both of which can become lethal conditions. Be sure to see your doctor about any troublesome vein issue, just to be safe.
For detailed information on leg pain due to sciatic nerve concerns, please read our sciatica symptoms page.