Unrelenting itchiness is a common side effect of the skin changes caused by chronic venous insufficiency, or poor circulation in the lower legs. Otherwise known as stasis dermatitis, itchy skin from vein disease isn’t a symptom you should put up with or ignore — it’s one you should treat as soon as possible.
Read on as our team of board-certified vein specialists at Vascular Vein Centers explains how vein disease can change your skin and why you shouldn’t delay having your skin symptoms evaluated by an expert.
Understanding venous insufficiency
Venous disease is an umbrella term that covers the various conditions and disorders that can affect your veins, or the network of vessels that carry oxygen-depleted blood from your organs and tissues to your heart and lungs, where it’s infused with fresh oxygen.
Two types of vein disease
Diseases of the veins fall into two basic categories: blockages from a blood clot (thrombosis) and inadequate drainage or flow (insufficiency). Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is an example of the former, and varicose veins are an example of the latter.
When veins are “insufficient”
With chronic venous insufficiency, weak or dysfunctional leg vein valves cause blood to collect behind them, eventually distorting and distending the affected area of the vessel and making it “varicose.” Insufficient leg veins can also damage adjacent capillaries, prompting them to leak fluid, blood cells, and proteins inside your tissues.
Negative effects of venous insufficiency
When blood doesn’t flow through your veins as it should, or when leaking capillaries trigger a buildup of fluids, blood cells, and protein in your lower legs, ankles, and feet, the effects can be serious.
Leg swelling and skin changes
Blood vessel leakage and the ensuing fluid buildup can lead to excessive leg swelling (peripheral edema). Left unchecked, continuous vascular leakage and lower limb swelling can spread all the way to your epidermal tissues and give rise to inflammatory skin changes (stasis dermatitis).
Open, non-healing leg wounds
Over time, oxygen-depleted areas of skin may start to crack or break open. In severe cases, itchy, inflamed skin triggered by vein disease can set the stage for venous ulcers, or open, non-healing wounds that can have life-threatening health consequences.
Recognizing the signs of stasis dermatitis
In standard vein disease progression, skin changes are usually preceded by some degree of localized swelling. It may be an existing varicose vein that becomes inflamed, or it may be fluid leakage and swelling driven by a deeper, unseen circulatory issue.
Lower leg and/or ankle swelling is often an early sign of stasis dermatitis, and it’s usually closely followed by skin color changes and itchiness in the affected area.
Just like venous insufficiency, stasis dermatitis can range in severity, triggering mild, periodic symptoms or significant pain and discomfort. It may affect your lower legs, ankles, and/or feet on one or both sides of your body, potentially causing:
- Chronic achiness or heaviness in your legs
- Persistent itchiness in the affected area
- Visibly raised or inflamed varicose veins
- Reddish or purple areas in lighter skin tones
- Brown, purple, or ashen areas in darker skin tones
- Very dry or flaky skin that may begin to scale
You may also see orange-brown speckles of discoloration (sometimes referred to as “cayenne pepper spots”) on your itchiest areas of skin. These spots appear when pressure and swelling cause tiny capillaries to burst beneath the surface of your skin.
Left untreated, stasis dermatitis can cause worsening skin changes that set the stage for non-healing wound formation. It can also lead to permanent skin changes like thickening, hardening, or darkening (hyperpigmentation).
Prompt vein care safeguards your health
Venous insufficiency affects millions of people in the United States at any given time. Though it’s often an age-related problem, it can also be a sign of a serious underlying health condition like heart disease or kidney disease.
Even if you only experience mild swelling, discoloration, and itchiness from vein disease, it’s imperative to seek expert evaluation and care as soon as possible. The sooner you seek treatment, the more likely you are to stop, slow, or control venous disease progression, ease your symptoms, prevent further complications, and protect your long-term health.
A personalized Cycle of Care treatment plan for vein disease and its complications begins with a comprehensive diagnosis in an IAC accredited diagnostic ultrasound imaging lab, like the ones we have at all seven of our Vascular Vein Centers locations.
If you have questions about vein disease and its complications, we have answers. Call today or use our easy online booking feature to schedule an appointment at your nearest Vascular Vein Centers office in Orlando, Waterford Lakes of East Orlando, Kissimmee, Lake Mary, The Villages, or Davenport/Haines City, Florida, any time.