You might be surprised to hear that itchy legs are a common symptom of varicose veins. Most people are familiar with the usual signs and symptoms of varicose veins: pain, swelling, discoloration, muscle cramps, and heaviness in the legs. However, not many know that unexplained itchiness in your legs can also be due to varicose veins.
How Varicose Veins Make Your Legs Itch
When the veins in your legs become damaged and fail to function properly, blood can collect in the area, causing varicose veins. These are noticeably engorged and twisted blood vessels that develop deep in the leg.
Untreated varicose veins can lead to a number of medical complications. One of the earliest of these is drainage from the skin on your legs. This occurs when pressure from the buildup of blood in the veins causes the serum component of your blood – a fluid that is clear or yellow in color – to leak out onto the skin. These leaky blood vessels inflame surrounding tissue and irritate your skin. Also called venous statis dermatitis, this can lead to rashes, itching, as well as discoloration of the skin on your legs.
Your immune system reacts to the inflammation by releasing histamine, which makes your skin itch, compounding the problem. Should you scratch the itch, it simply sets the whole process on an endless loop: scratching prompts the release of more histamine, which makes your legs even more itchy.
How to Treat Varicose Vein Itch
If you have varicose veins, the most important thing is to ensure a highly qualified and reputable vascular surgeon who specializes in treating vein disorders has thoroughly assessed your condition and is working with you on a proper course of treatment.
In addition to your varicose vein treatment options, your doctor may also advise you to undertake some lifestyle changes to help alleviate your symptoms. This might include wearing compression stockings, regularly elevating your legs, engaging in low-impact exercises, and losing weight if you are obese.
5 Self-Care Tips
Meanwhile, to deal with the immediate problem of itchy legs due to varicose veins, here are five self-care steps that may help soothe varicose vein itch:
- Avoid scratching: It may seem counterintuitive – not to mention impossible – but avoid scratching the itchy areas. Doing so can lead to the production of more histamine in the body, which actually amps up the itchiness. Vigorous scratching may also cause an abrasion in the skin on your leg, which can lead to open sores that are difficult to heal, as well as increase your risk of developing common yet potentially serious bacterial infections like cellulitis.
- Moisturize: Instead of scratching, apply lotions or salves at least twice a day to calm your irritated skin. Try thicker lotions and those without perfumes, as these will provide extra moisture without further irritating your skin.
- Topical steroid cream: Hydrocortisone cream can be purchased over-the-counter and is a steroid cream that helps reduce inflammation and itch. When using any type of topical steroid, limit your use to no more than 7 consecutive days to avoid unwanted side effects, unless your doctor advises you otherwise.
- Anti-itch creams: There are a variety of other anti-itch creams available over-the-counter, such as Calamine lotion or a topical antihistamine, that can help alleviate itchy skin.
- Antihistamines: This is a group of medications available by prescription, as well as over-the-counter that works by reducing histamine production in the body – thereby reducing the itch.
Vascular Surgeon in Tampa Bay, FL
Do you have itchy legs and you’re not sure why? Do you have any of the other symptoms of varicose veins? Contact the varicose vein and venous disease specialists at Edward G. Mackay and Associates, LLC in Palm Harbor, St. Petersburg, or Largo, Florida, for a proper examination and assessment. You may be surprised at the range of treatment options available to you.
Call Edward G. Mackay and Associates, LLC at (727) 781-5652 to schedule your visit – or request an appointment now. We look forward to helping relieve your symptoms, once and for all.