Do Varicose Veins Itch?

The Vein Specialists at ProVascularMD explain the cause of itchy varicose veins and treatment options that can help.
Do varicose veins itch?

Itchy veins can be a minor nuisance or a serious detriment to an individual’s quality of life depending on how severe they are and how persistent the itch is. Varicose veins are often recognized by their unsightly appearance, but they often bring about other symptoms that cause pain or discomfort in the affected leg. Swelling and cramping are amongst the most common issues associated with varicose veins, but many individuals with vein problems have come to learn that varicose veins can itch as well.

Itchy varicose vein specialist Dr. Michael Lalezarian in Los Angeles, California

Vein Specialist

Dr. Michael Lalezarian

Vein problems? We can help. No matter what stage of venous insufficiency you find yourself in, Dr. Lalezarian can help you get your legs back. Dr. Michael Lalezarian is a double-board certified Vascular Interventional Radiologist specializing in minimally invasive vein treatments. He is a committed partner in the battle against the devastating consequences of venous insufficiency.
5-star venous insufficiency care in Los Angeles

“I have seen several vascular doctors in the High Desert, and I usually only end up seeing nurses and not the doctor. I had full evaluation on my first visit with the doctor. Very pleased and very grateful. Highly recommend.”

Carol S, February 2022

Why Do Varicose Veins Itch?

To understand why varicose veins itch, we need to first understand how varicose veins develop and how they affect the leg. Varicose veins are caused by a phenomenon called venous reflux, which is a fancy term that describes when blood flows backwards in the veins. Backwards blood flow causes blood to pool within the veins, which is why varicose veins can appear colorful and bulgy on the surface of the leg. Veins in the leg form a network of pipes, and backup in one part of the network tends to back up further into other parts of the network, which is why varicose veins tend to get worse over time and extend throughout various parts of the leg. Unfortunately, the consequences of varicose veins do not stop with unsightly veins. When blood pools in a varicose vein, nearby skin can become dry, irritated, and itchy from a lack of adequate blood supply and nutrition. Further, when blood pools in the veins it tends to leak out into the surrounding tissues, which is why varicose veins are typically accompanied by significant swelling and a feeling of heaviness in the leg. When blood leaks out of the vein, inflammatory cells move into the tissues as well, causing the skin to become irritated and itchy in a clinical presentation that’s similar to eczema. These symptoms may or may not be accompanied by skin color changes where the skin either becomes a darker shade or a lighter shade.
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Woman scratching her itchy varicose veins

Are Itchy Varicose Veins Serious?

Itchy varicose veins could indicate that your varicose veins are getting worse, especially if you’ve noticed changes in the color and consistency of your skin in the affected area of your leg. Unfortunately, varicose veins do not go away on their own, and they tend to get worse if left untreated. The most advanced stages of vein disease result in significant skin changes and leg ulcers caused by impaired blood flow.

Readers of the popular book 1984 by George Orwell may recall that the lead character, Winston Smith, was often scratching at his varicose ulcer. While his ailment has been said to symbolize the repressed humanity of the fictional dystopia that he lived in, the staff at ProVascularMD understand it to mean that Winston was way overdue to see a Vein Specialist.

Treatment For Itchy Varicose Veins

There are both temporary and permanent treatments for itchy varicose veins. For immediate symptom relief, antihistamines and topical creams can be used to relieve itching.

  • Antihistamines: medications that inhibit the chemical histamine, which causes skin to itch
  • Topical Creams: medicated creams that contain corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors that reduce inflammation and relieve itching

Importantly, these treatments are only effective for a short time, and neither are recommended for long-term repeated use.

Fortunately, there are specialized varicose vein treatments that can provide permanent relief from itchy veins, pain, swelling, and other symptoms of varicose veins. Vein treatment addresses the root cause by closing down problem veins and restoring healthy blood flow throughout the leg.

  • Sclerotherapy: a chemical solution called sclerosant is injected into varicose veins, causing them to permanently close
  • Thermal Ablation: heat is applied to the inside of the veins using a catheter-based device, causing the veins to close
  • VenaSeal: a bio-safe glue is injected into the varicose veins, and pressure is applied from the outside to seal the veins shut

Get in touch with us at ProVascularMD to learn more about your veins and your treatment options.

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Los Angeles Vascular Specialist Dr. Michael Lalezarian

Vascular Specialist in Los Angeles

Learn more about Los Angeles Vascular Specialist Dr. Michael Lalezarian.

References [1] Lurie F. Passman M. Meisner M, Dalsing M, Masuda E, Welch H, Bush RL, et al. The 2020 Update of the CEAP classification system and reporting standards. J Vasc Surg: Venous and Lym Dis 2020;8:342-52. [2] Vasquez MA, Rabe E, Mclafferty RB, et al. Revision of the venous clinical severity score: venous outcomes consensus statement: special communication of the American Venous Forum Ad Hoc Outcomes Working Group. J Vasc Surg. 2010;52(5):1387-96. [3] Creager, Mark A., and Joseph Loscalzo.. “Chronic Venous Disease and Lymphedema.” Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 20e Eds. J. Larry Jameson, et al. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. [4] Raffetto JD. Pathophysiology of Chronic Venous Disease and Venous Ulcers. Surg Clin North Am. 2018;98(2):337-347.

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