We have been getting plenty of questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and varicose veins. It’s understandable, a rare blood clotting complication brought on by the vaccine has led to some uncertainty. And if you had planned to get your varicose vein treated soon, you want to know that you are making informed decisions about receiving vein treatment after having the vaccine.
So let us illuminate some of the jargon around the COVID-19 vaccines and varicose vein treatment.
I have varicose veins, does the risk of blood clots increase if I get the vaccine? Is the vaccine safe for varicose veins?
The answer to this is slightly complex. We know that in rare cases the vaccine may cause a spontaneous blood clotting/bleeding disorder that has been linked to an immune reaction to platelets. This rare clotting disorder is known as TTS (Thrombocytopenia Syndrome). However, there is no evidence to date that links the vaccine to the traditional causes of lower leg deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
In patients with ordinary DVT, clots may develop where there is:
- Blood stagnation in the veins (for example with varicose veins)
- Damage to veins by trauma or surgery
- Prolonged sitting such as on a long plane flight
- Prolonged periods in bed (e.g.: disability or following illness or hospitalisation)
- Genetic predisposition to developing clots such as the FVL Gene Mutation or Prothrombin Gene Mutation.
In many cases, patients with these risk factors may then exacerbate the problem by other means, for example, the oral contraceptive pill or smoking.
If varicose veins are left untreated, the risk of clotting is increased. But there is no evidence of increased clotting for those with varicose veins who receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The AstraZeneca vaccine may cause TTS in around 4-6 people in every 1,000,000. However, keep in mind that those infected with COVID-19 develop blood clot at a rate of 165,000 cases in every 1,000,000. This means there is a higher risk of blood clot from patients who contract Coronavirus compared to those vaccinated against it.
If you have had other types of blood clots in the past, or if you have risk factors for blood clots, you can still have the AstraZeneca vaccine – there is no evidence of an increased risk of developing TTS for people in this category. The overall rate of blood clots has not risen in countries that have extensively used the AstraZeneca vaccine with millions of doses administered, meaning the benefits of vaccination clearly outweigh the risks.
I’ve had the vaccine; can I get my veins treated?
Provided you are healthy and have been screened for any other medical conditions by your GP or treating phlebologist, yes, your varicose veins can be treated.
We normally wait between 7-10 days after vaccination to allow the body to respond to the vaccine and deal with any immune reactions. Most people won’t experience any issues post-vaccine or if they do only mild effects, such as a sore arm, sniffle, or sore throat. Others may have a slightly more vigorous reaction and feel run-down flu-like symptoms, or aches and pains, which will need time to settle. Waiting 7-10 days allows time for the body to return to normal before beginning varicose vein treatment.
- Thrombocytopenia Syndrome or TTS is a rare blood clot caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is believed to occur because the immune system reacts against platelets in the blood.
- DVT occurs when there is stagnation in the blood, damage to the vein walls, or changes in the blood itself.
- There is currently no evidence linking the vaccine to the traditional causes of lower leg deep vein thrombosis.
- If you have had the COVID-19 vaccine, you can have your veins treated. We wait 7-10 days following vaccination to ensure any immune reactions (like a sore arm, flu-like symptoms) have subsided.