What Happens When Varicose Veins Burst

The Dangers of Bursting Varicose Veins

Varicose veins develop when valves inside leg veins stop working properly, causing blood to pool and veins to abnormally twist, enlarge, and sometimes burst open. While not all varicose veins burst, a ruptured varicose vein can cause concerning symptoms. Keep reading to understand why varicose veins burst & what happens when varicose veins burst. what it feels. This article will provide an in-depth explanation of varicose vein ruptures.

Varicose veins develop when the valves inside the veins stop working properly, allowing blood to flow backward and pool inside the veins. This causes the veins to stretch, enlarge, and take on a rope-like, swollen appearance. Varicose veins most frequently occur in the legs due to the high pressure required to pump blood from the lower extremities back to the heart. However, they can develop elsewhere as well. Risk factors include obesity, pregnancy, genetics, age, and prolonged sitting or standing.

While varicose veins may seem like just a superficial problem, they can sometimes lead to severe complications like phlebitis, skin ulcers, and dangerous blood clots. One of the more serious potential complications is rupturing, also referred to as bursting, of varicose veins. This occurs when the vein walls weaken and can no longer withstand the high pressure, causing them to burst open.

What Happens When Varicose Veins Burst?

When a varicose vein ruptures, blood and other fluids from within the vein start rapidly leaking out into the surrounding tissue through the broken vein wall. This can cause extensive bruising, swelling, and discomfort. The leaked blood tends to pool in the soft tissue under the skin, resulting in a localized hematoma (a collection of clotted or partially clotted blood).

In most cases, the bleeding is limited to the soft tissue region around the burst vein. However, if the ruptured vein is large, the bleeding can sometimes be more severe. This is especially true if the burst vein is located deep below the skin rather than close to the surface. Extensive internal bleeding from a ruptured varicose vein is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical care.

What Does a Burst Varicose Vein Feel Like?

After a varicose vein first ruptures, you may feel a sudden sharp pain or stinging sensation in that area of your leg. There may be a popping or snapping sensation as well. This initial discomfort is often followed by throbbing, aching, and tenderness around the rupture site as blood starts to leak into the surrounding tissue. The area will quickly become swollen and bruised.

Many describe the pain as similar to a bad charley horse or muscle cramp. However, the pain does not subside, and the area continues to swell rapidly. Some also report feeling warm, red skin over the hematoma as blood pools under the tissue. Moving or flexing the leg with the ruptured vein can worsen pain and discomfort.

Signs and Symptoms

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms to watch for when a varicose vein bursts:

  • Sudden, severe pain in the area of the ruptured vein
  • Bruising that quickly spreads over the skin surface
  • Extensive swelling around the ruptured vein
  • A hematoma that you can feel as a tender lump under the skin
  • Reddened skin over the ruptured vein
  • Bleeding from the rupture site in severe cases
  • Leg numbness, tingling, or weakness if a burst vein compresses nerves
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected leg

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical evaluation right away. Trying to “wait it out” can allow blood to continue pooling and increase risks.

Complications and Concerns

Most cases of burst varicose veins are not immediately life-threatening. However, there are some potentially serious complications and concerns to keep in mind:

  • Heavy bleeding – Hemorrhage from a large, deep vein rupture may require emergency surgery or intervention to stop blood loss.
  • Infection – Bacteria can enter through the broken skin and cause a local infection. Cellulitis or abscesses may result.
  • Blood clots – Varicose veins already carry an increased risk of blood clots. This risk is amplified when one ruptures.
  • Leg swelling – A hematoma can compress veins and lymphatic vessels, leading to chronic swelling and pain.
  • Ulcers – Untreated ruptures can progress to varicose vein ulcers which are difficult to heal.
  • Nerve damage – Hematomas or swelling can sometimes compress surrounding nerves, causing numbness.
  • Scarring – Repeated ruptures in the same area increase the amount of scar tissue that develops.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Most burst varicose veins can be treated on an urgent care basis. However, if you experience the following, seek ER care without delay:

  • Bleeding that won’t stop after 10 minutes of pressure
  • Gushing blood or bleeding through your clothing
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
  • Severe pain, swelling, or numbness
  • Signs of infection like fever, heat, redness, pus
  • Chest pain, trouble breathing, calf pain with swelling (clot risk)
  • Large swollen hematoma, especially if deep in the thigh
  • Rapid swelling of the entire leg, not just rupture site

Treating a Burst Varicose Vein

Getting prompt medical care is crucial if you suspect a ruptured varicose vein. Here’s a look at how these injuries are treated:

  • Bleeding control – Direct pressure will be applied to control any significant bleeding from the rupture site.
  • Raising the leg – This helps reduce blood flow and swelling.
  • Compression – Elastic bandages, compression stockings, or wraps help reduce swelling.
  • Pain medication – Over-the-counter or prescription medications provide pain relief.
  • Cold therapy – Ice packs can ease pain, inflammation and help limit bleeding.
  • Wound care – Keeping the area clean and dry helps prevent infection.
  • Leg elevation – Keeping your leg raised above heart level speeds healing.
  • Activity modification – Avoid prolonged standing or walking to prevent re-injury.
  • Medical follow-ups – You’ll need continued monitoring for potential complications.

Diagnostic Testing

To assess the severity of a burst varicose vein, the following diagnostic tests may be used:

  • Duplex ultrasound – This images the veins and identifies the location and extent of the rupture.
  • Blood tests – These check for signs of infection or blood clotting risks.
  • CT scan – If bleeding is severe, a CT scan checks for deep vein involvement.
  • MRI scan – An MRI can reveal the size of the hematoma and any nerve impingement.
  • Angiography – Contrast dye injected into the blood vessels checks for active bleeding.

How To Prevent First-Time Varicose Veins Burst?

Here are some tips to help prevent varicose veins from rupturing for the first time:

  • Wear compression stockings – Compression stockings that provide 15-20 mmHg of graduated pressure can help prevent varicose vein formation and progression. This reduces the risk of rupture.
  • Exercise regularly – Moderate exercise like walking, swimming, or biking improves circulation and leg muscle strength. This helps veins function more efficiently and reduces pressure.
  • Lose excess weight – Obesity increases the pressure on leg veins and is linked to higher varicose vein risks. Losing any excess body weight can help.
  • Avoid crossing your legs – Crossing your legs can restrict blood flow back to the heart. Try to avoid sitting with your legs crossed.
  • Take breaks from sitting or standing – Make an effort to change positions, stretch, and walk periodically throughout the day. This improves circulation.
  • Elevate your legs – Lie down and raise your legs above heart level for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times per day. This helps blood flow back to the heart.
  • Avoid high heels – Shoes with high heels can increase the pressure in leg veins and aggravate varicose veins. Opt for lower heels.
  • Consider vein treatment – Discuss minimally invasive procedures like endovenous ablation or sclerotherapy with your doctor to treat varicose veins before they can rupture.

Catching and treating varicose veins early on provides the best chance to prevent progression and reduce the risks of complications like rupturing. Be proactive with self-care and talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Preventing Future Ruptures

Once you’ve experienced one varicose vein rupture, your risk for future ruptures increases. Here are some tips to help prevent recurrent bursts:

  • Wear compression stockings – These provide gentle pressure to improve vein and valve function.
  • Keep active – Movement improves circulation and blood flow in your legs.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting or standing – Make an effort to change positions frequently.
  • Exercise regularly – Activities like walking, swimming, and biking all benefit vein health.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Obesity is linked to increased varicose vein risks.
  • Elevate your legs – Lie down and raise your legs periodically throughout the day.
  • Consider sclerotherapy – Injections can shrink varicose veins and decrease rupture risks.

Further Varicose Vein Rupture Complications

Beyond leg pain and alarming bruising, further serious issues stemming from a burst varicose vein may include:


Bacteria can develop within the trapped blood, sparks redness spreading from the ruptured vein, pus, and fever.

Leg Ulcers

Prolonged inflammation can eat through skin layers, forming an open, slow-healing wound.

DVT Clots

Blood clotting may occur within deeper leg veins if a growing hematoma damages veins. Leg swelling results.

Blood Loss Anemia

Ongoing, intermittent bleeding episodes can potentially lead to iron deficiency anemia.

Air Embolism

Very rarely, an open ruptured vein site draws air bubbles into veins heading towards the heart. Chest pain upon breathing results requires emergency help.

When to Seek Surgical Treatment

If you’ve suffered from multiple recurring varicose vein ruptures, your doctor may advise surgical treatment options such as:

  • Vein stripping – Removal of the damaged varicose vein from the leg.
  • Endovenous ablation – Using heat from lasers or radiofrequency to seal off damaged veins.
  • Sclerotherapy – Injecting chemicals into varicose veins to scar and close them off.
  • Ligation and stripping – Tying off varicose veins after stripping them out.


Is it an emergency if varicose veins burst?

Most cases of ruptured varicose veins are not immediately life-threatening and can be treated on an urgent care basis. However, if bleeding is severe or you experience symptoms like lightheadedness, confusion, chest pain, trouble breathing, or calf pain with swelling, seek emergency care right away.

Can I treat a burst varicose vein at home?

You should not try to treat a ruptured varicose vein entirely at home. It’s important to be evaluated by a medical professional to assess the severity, stop bleeding, and monitor for potential complications. Initial first aid like applying pressure, elevating the leg, and using cold compresses can help until you are able to be medically evaluated.

Do I need surgery if my varicose vein ruptures?

Most isolated ruptures of varicose veins can be treated without surgery through conservative measures like compression, wound care, activity modification, and medications. If you experience recurrent ruptures or have extensive varicose veins, your doctor may ultimately recommend one of the vein closure surgical techniques.

How long does it take for a ruptured varicose vein to heal?

Healing time varies based on the severity of the rupture, amount of swelling, and whether complications develop. With proper care, most ruptured varicose veins heal within 1-2 weeks. The bruising and tenderness generally improves within a few days, but complete resolution of the swelling may take several weeks.

Can I prevent varicose veins from rupturing?

There are steps you can take to help prevent varicose vein ruptures, like wearing compression stockings, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, avoiding prolonged sitting/standing, and elevating your legs. Your doctor may also recommend procedures to treat the actual varicose veins, such as sclerotherapy injections or vein-stripping surgery.

How dangerous is an untreated burst varicose vein?

Leaving a ruptured varicose vein can lead to dangerous outcomes like severe infection, non-healing ulcers, blood clots, and anemia if uncontrolled bleeding continues. Always seek prompt care.

Do I need surgery to fix a burst varicose vein?

Surgery may be required in some cases with very large associated hematomas that don’t self-resolve or keep re-bleeding despite compression repair. This drains the trapped blood medically.

Do I need stitches for a ruptured varicose vein?

It depends on the size and location of the rupture. Closing small burst vein sites may successfully use skin glue or specialized tape. Larger tears require stitches for best results.

How can I tell a burst capillary from a ruptured varicose vein?

Capillaries are tiny blood vessels just beneath the skin producing limited small red spots if broken. A ruptured varicose vein causes more intense bruise-like bleeding spreading over a larger area rather quickly if not compressed.

Will compression socks prevent my varicose veins from rupturing?

Maybe – compression socks/stockings can help stabilize problematic surface varicose veins at risk for injury. However medical vein treatment is still required long-term.

Last Words

Although rare, varicose veins can unexpectedly rupture and spill blood into the surrounding leg tissue which rightfully causes alarm. Seeking prompt medical care for proper compression, repair, infection prevention, and ultimately fixing the underlying diseased vein helps minimize this risk going forward along with self-care like avoiding skin trauma. With the right varicose vein treatment plan, your risk of dealing with burst leg veins decreases dramatically. Rupturing of varicose veins can cause abrupt pain, swelling, bruising, and other complications. While not normally life-threatening, it’s crucial to monitor the area for excessive bleeding and seek prompt medical care. With proper treatment to stop bleeding and control swelling, most varicose vein ruptures heal without severe long-term problems. Careful self-monitoring and proactive steps can help reduce recurrence risks.


My name is Selina, a medical specialist blogger helping people access treatment for 5+ years. Although blogging awhile, only recently deeply engaged. This past year my most productive, providing hospital reviews and info on symptoms, diagnoses and diseases. Also offer guidelines to help readers navigate healthcare. Goal to continue increased content pace to assist many. Aim to facilitate treatment and empower advocacy through writing.

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