April 1


Varicose Veins Itch

By Dr. Edward Mackay

April 1, 2019

Why varicose veins itch

Varicose veins are painful, engorged, swollen, crampy, and itchy. Yes, you read that right, itchy is not a typo, but another common symptom from varicose veins. Although most experience pain from varicose veins, many can also develop itchiness from their varicose veins.

To book an appointment with Dr. Mackay or ask a question, call 1-727-261-0042 or fill out an appointment request form.

Why do varicose veins become itchy?

Itchiness does seem to be a strange symptom for a medical problem that usually causes pain, but as this blog post details the way that the veins and body system work together, it is easier to understand why itching is a symptom of varicose veins.

  • Increased histamine:  Since varicose veins do not function properly, the body works to repair the vein. The body produces hormones, such as histamine to repair the body. Histamine is same hormone released during an allergic reaction or response. Therefore, as the body is trying to heal the varicose veins, the histamine gives the sensation of itchiness.
  • Fluid leaking:  Due to the veins not moving blood back toward the heart, this leads to an accumulation of blood in the veins causing an increase in pressure in the vein. In order to reduce pressure, the blood begins to leak out of the vein and into the surrounding soft tissue, like the skin. Since blood is meant to stay within the vein, this irritates the skin, often leading to discoloration of the skin, rashes, and itching.

How to treat the "itch" symptom

Even though itching is an unpleasant symptom that is usually more a nuisance, there are some ways to treat the itchiness.

  • Avoid scratching:  Scratching the itchy areas can usually worsen the itch, as it can lead to further trauma in the vein and more histamine produced by the body to heal this trauma.  Scratching can also cause cuts in the skin that may lead to an infection in the skin or a poor healing wound from the excess swelling and fluid in the tissue.
  • Moisturize:  Apply lotions or salves at least twice a day can calm the irritated skin. Try to find thicker lotions and those without perfumes, as these will usually provide for better moisture.
  • Topical steroid cream:  Hydrocortisone cream can be purchased over the counter and is a steroid cream that helps to reduce inflammation in the skin and over reduction in itchiness.  This should be used according to the package instructions and use should be limited to 7 days, unless directed by a physician.
  • Anti-itch creams:  There are other anti-itch creams over the counter, like Calamine lotion or a topical antihistamine that can be used to help with itch.
  • Antihistamines:  This is a group of medication that can be found over the counter and helps to reduce the histamine, thereby reducing the itch.
To book an appointment with Dr. Mackay or ask a question, call 1-727-261-0042 or fill out an appointment request form.

How to treat the varicose veins with conservative options.

​Despite there being treatment options for the itching that varicose veins cause, keep in mind that treating varicose veins is the best way to reduce symptoms.

  1. wear compression stockings
  2. elevate your legs
  3. lose weight
  4. perform low impact exercises daily

These things will help reduce the overall symptoms of varicose veins.

Meet ABMS Board Certified Surgeon, Dr. Mackay

 Contact the office of Dr. Edward Mackay, a board certified vascular surgeon providing services to patients in the Tampa area.

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