Itching is just one uncomfortable symptom of varicose veins, but it can be among the most distressing. Here’s what you can do to stop the itch.
A number of uncomfortable side effects accompany varicose veins, and if you have the condition you have likely experienced them — pain, swelling, cramping, itching, and an overall feeling of heaviness in the legs. But of those symptoms, one of the most distressing may be itching.
The constant urge to scratch makes doing everyday tasks difficult and interrupts your sleep. But rubbing varicose veins will exacerbate the symptom. The only cure for varicose veins — and their symptoms — is treatment by a vein specialist. However, there are several at-home methods to relieve the itch until your varicose veins are treated.
Why Do Varicose Veins Itch?
To understand why varicose veins itch, you must first know the root cause of varicose veins. When blood rushes throughout the body, it depends on tiny valves in the leg veins to pump deoxygenated blood back to the heart where it gets a boost of oxygen before being re-circulated. Whether due to age, pregnancy, obesity, or heredity, these valves weaken, letting blood collect in and widen the veins. As more blood builds within the vein, veins emerge from under the skin in thick, ropey twists of varicose veins.
This situation then sets off a chain reaction that causes itching, or as it’s known medically, venous stasis dermatitis or venous eczema. First, the body senses the damaged valves and sends out hormones known as histamines to repair the leaky valves. Histamines are the body’s natural response to allergies, which usually triggers an itch. In addition, blood from the enlarged veins seeps into the surrounding skin and tissue. Because the backed-up blood blocks healing oxygen from getting to the skin cells, the skin becomes inflamed and itchy.
Although your instinct is to scratch the vein, that will only irritate the skin more, and possibly cause an infected sore. Instead, try these five at-home remedies to dial down the itch:
- Slather on Creams. Topical creams that contain antihistamines (such as calamine lotion) and hydrocortisone (typically used for seven days) calm irritated skin and stop the urge to itch. You can also smooth on a thick moisturizing cream, but choose one without perfumes which may inflame the skin. As with any medication, always check with your physician before using.
- Elevate Your Legs. Propping your legs above your heart on a pillow reverses the downward pull of gravity in the veins and encourages blood to return to the heart. Do this for 15 minutes several times a day.
- Put on Compression Stockings. Tightly woven compression stockings — available in drugstores or by a doctor’s prescription — gently press the veins so blood shoots upward to the torso. Once the blood gets moving in the right direction, swelling goes down. Center for Vein Restoration patients receive a free pair of compression stockings at their first appointment.
- Stay Active. To counteract itching and the other symptoms of varicose veins, you must stay active to promote good circulation. Light aerobic exercise like walking and biking strengthens the calf muscles, which, in turn, helps the veins pump blood. You don’t need a formal workout to improve blood flow, however. While you’re sitting at a desk or in a plane seat, something as simple as flexing your ankles prevents blood from pooling in the veins.
- Get Treatment. The above tips provide only temporary relief from the pain and itching of varicose veins. For a permanent fix, a vein specialist can discuss one of several minimally invasive surgical procedures that use either a safe solution or laser heat to collapse the damaged vein, eventually making it disappear.
Reach Out For Help
The Center for Vein Restoration is now serving our patients with both in-person and telemedicine appointments. We’ve instituted strict protocols to ensure your safety if you visit the office for a consultation or treatment. If you’re experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins, please reach out to us so we can look after your vein health and improve your quality of life.