This study assessed the impact of varicose veins (VV) on quality of life (QOL) and patient-reported symptoms.
A cross-sectional population-based study was held in 166 general practices and 116 specialist clinics for venous disorders of the leg in Belgium, Canada (Quebec), France, and Italy. Study subjects included a sample of 259 reference patients without VV (CEAP class 0 or 1) and 1054 patients with VV who were classified as having VV alone (367; 34.8%), VV with edema (125; 11.9%), VV with skin changes (431; 40.9%), VV with healed ulcer (100; 9.5%), and VV with active ulcer (31; 2.9%). The main outcome measure was generic and disease-specific QOL, as measured by means of the Short-Form Health Survey-36 (SF-36) and the VEINES-QOL scale, and patient-reported symptoms as measured by the VEINES-SYM scale.
In patients with VV, age-standardized mean SF-36 physical (PCS) and mental (MCS) scores were 45.6 and 46.1 in men and 44.2 and 43.2 in women, respectively, compared with population norms of 50. PCS scores decreased according to increasing severity of concomitant venous disease, with the lowest mean scores of 37.3 and 35.5 found in patients with VV and active ulcer. However, adjusted analyses showed no statistically significant differences between patients with VV alone and patients without VV for PCS (0.0), MCS (1.0), VEINES-QOL (-0.1), or VEINES-SYM (0.0) scores. In comparison with patients without VV, the largest differences were seen in patients with VV and edema (PCS, VEINES-QOL, and VEINES-SYM score differences of -1.8, -2.5, and -2.9, respectively) and in patients with VV and ulceration (differences of -3.3, -3.4, and -2.7, respectively). The high prevalence of major symptoms of venous disorders in patients in CEAP class 0 or 1 being treated for venous disorders (76.1% of patients had heaviness, aching legs, or swelling) might have contributed to the impairment of QOL in the reference group.
Results indicate that impairment in physical QOL in patients with VV is associated with concomitant venous disease, rather than the presence of VV per se. Findings concerning QOL in patients with VV can only be reliably interpreted when concomitant venous disease is taken into account. In patients with VV alone, the objectives of cosmetic improvement and the improvement of QOL should be considered separately.