Varicose veins don’t just look unsightly; they can also feel very uncomfortable. Most people who suffer from this condition will be familiar with these effects: aching, heaviness, reddened skin, throbbing, burning, cramping, swelling, and pain.
Among the more unusual side effects of having varicose veins are itching and dry skin on the legs, particularly directly overlying the diseased veins. While not as well known as the above mentioned side effects, it’s often these more unusual issues that send people to see their GP.
So what causes the dry, itchy skin associated with varicose veins?
A condition called Varicose Eczema.
What is Varicose Eczema?
Varicose Eczema, also known as Venous Eczema or Venous Stasis Dermatitis, occurs in some people with varicose veins.
Varicose veins are caused by damage to the vein walls and/or valves and can result in chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI causes blood to pool in the lower legs rather than returning properly to the heart, leading to the enlarged, twisted veins so characteristic of varicose veins.
Varicose eczema is the outcome of chronic increased blood pressure in the varicose veins and surrounding capillaries. This venous hypertension causes red blood cells to leak from the damaged vein into the local tissues. These red blood cells break down and attract the immune system’s inflammatory cells (including white cells, cytokines, and others) whose role in the body is to deal with the products of this breakdown. When this is a chronic, continuous cycle, it initiates its own cycle of itching, scratching, hyperpigmentation of the skin, and ultimately skin breakdown. This makes the itching even worse, and even more damage occurs to the veins and tissues surrounding them.
Itching and dry skin over varicose veins is a sure sign of chronic venous disease which is a progressive condition – and a strong indicator that you need to have your veins treated by a professional.
If the underlying cause of varicose eczema is not properly addressed, the problem will only worsen. The skin will permanently discolour and thicken, potentially eventually breaking down and developing venous ulcers as advanced vein disease is established.
Managing the Itching at Home
- Moisturise your legs. Do this twice per day, using a natural fragrance-free, thick moisturiser (such as pure Sorbolene cream – available in your local pharmacy). This will help to settle irritated skin and replace some of the lost moisture.
- Wearing compression socks or stockings can help by enhancing and improving the circulation in your legs.
- You may use over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. This contains a mild steroid that helps to alleviate inflammation. If a stronger steroid cream is required, your doctor can prescribe this.
- Non-steroidal anti-itch creams like Calamine lotion may be helpful for symptom relief.
- Don’t Scratch! As tempting as it may be, scratching the itch will only worsen it. This can lead to the body producing even more histamine and cause extra trauma to the already damaged vein. Scratching can also disrupt the integrity of your skin and result in cuts and grazes that lead to infection and even ulceration.
- Antihistamine medications (e.g. Claratyne) can help reduce the levels of histamine in your body, hence minimising the itching.
- Gentle exercise is beneficial for varicose veins and can improve all side effects, including itching.
Ways to Treat Itchy Varicose Veins
While there are numerous remedies you may use for the itching and dryness of varicose eczema at home (see below), chances are you’ll need to ultimately seek medical advice. Your GP may prescribe antibiotics if an infection is present (or suspected) and dressings will be required if the skin is broken.
While temporary relief can be achieved, these approaches treat only the symptoms of a bigger issue, and to eliminate varicose eczema, the varicose veins will require specialist treatment.
This is where Crows Nest Vein Clinic can help.
Walk-In, Walk-Out Varicose Vein Treatment
Visit Crows Nest Cosmetic & Vein Clinic for effective, minimally invasive one-day varicose vein treatment to improve the comfort and appearance of your legs.
The benefits of opting for these treatments include:
- Extremely high success rate
- Excellent outcomes
- No hospitalisation or general anaesthetic required
- No downtime or sick leave required
- Fast, comfortable recovery
- No referral needed
- Medicare rebates apply
Our in-house vein doctor Dr Nicole James is a leading Australian vein specialist offering gold-standard vein treatments. With unparalleled care and empathy, she will assess your veins and level of vein disease, and recommend the very best techniques as appropriate for your individual case and circumstances. These treatment approaches include sclerotherapy, microsclerotherapy, endovenous laser ablation, or a combination of these for the very best outcomes.
Tips for Preventing Your Veins from Worsening
- Elevate your legs
- Drink plenty of water
- Minimise salt, sugar, and fried consumption
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage high blood pressure and cholesterol
- Wear compression stockings
- Try to get some gentle exercise (e.g. a walk around the block) every day
- Avoid standing in one place or sitting for extended periods
- Avoid wearing tight clothing
- Don’t wear high heels
Book With Crows Nest Vein Clinic Now
Book a consultation with Dr James today!
We look forward to welcoming you.