When considering the most likely culprit behind dry, flaky, or itchy skin, most people think of a dermatological or immune system problem first — possibly some kind of rash or hives from an allergic reaction, or maybe a chronic skin condition like eczema or psoriasis.
But when itchy skin specifically emerges on your lower extremities, there’s a significant chance that venous disease is the underlying cause. Read on as our team of board-certified vascular experts discusses how venous disease can give rise to persistent itchiness and other abnormal skin changes as it progresses, and explains why you should schedule a comprehensive vascular evaluation at Vascular Vein Centers any time you notice concerning skin symptoms on your legs, ankles, or feet.
How venous disease affects your circulation
Venous disease is an umbrella medical term used to describe any condition that affects your veins, or the blood vessels that carry deoxygenated blood from your body back to your heart and lungs. Common forms of venous disease include:
- Superficial thrombophlebitis
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Varicose veins; spider veins
- Chronic venous insufficiency
As the most prevalent form of venous disease, chronic venous insufficiency — also known as poor lower extremity circulation — is what frequently sets the stage for varicose veins, blood clots, and other vein problems.
Venous insufficiency occurs when the one-way valves in your leg veins stop working properly because of damage, age-related dysfunction, or both. When vein valves don’t work well, blood pools behind them and stops flowing efficiently from your lower extremities back to your heart.
From impaired circulation to skin damage
As blood repeatedly pools behind dysfunctional leg vein valves, your circulation becomes more sluggish. Slow, inefficient circulation in your lower extremities leads to localized skin damage in four basic steps:
- Intravascular pressure starts to increase
- Under pressure, tiny capillaries begin to leak
- Leaking capillaries cause lower leg swelling
- Overlying skin tissues receive less oxygen
When the dermal tissues over sluggish leg veins don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need, they start to change. The resulting condition, known as venous stasis dermatitis, can make the affected area of skin feel perpetually itchy and irritated. You may also notice:
- Dry skin that makes you feel the need to scratch
- Scaly skin patches that flake and peel
- Red or purple discoloration (on light skin)
- Brown or ashen discoloration (on dark skin)
- Thickened skin that looks tight and shiny
- Reddish speckles (cayenne pepper spots)
Abnormal skin changes are just one set of symptoms that point to the presence of venous disease. Other common indications include inflamed varicose veins, prominent spider veins, and persistent leg pain, achiness, or heaviness.
Progressive skin changes lead to open sores
Chronic venous insufficiency is a progressive condition that tends to worsen without medical intervention. The skin damage it causes tends to worsen over time, too — without treatment, itchy, tight, or discolored skin can become even drier, increasing the likelihood that it will form into thick, hard patches that readily crack open and bleed.
Such skin breaks set the stage for the rapid formation of open sores called venous ulcers. Because they occur in nutrient- and oxygen-deprived skin tissues, these wounds tend to heal slowly or not at all, increasing your risk of infection for as long as they linger.
Has your skin changed? Give us a call today
Whether you’ve just started dealing with persistently itchy skin on your legs, ankles, or feet, or you’ve noticed other signs of venous disease in your lower extremities for a while, we can help.
If our skin evaluation and diagnostic ultrasound exam reveals venous disease, we develop a targeted treatment plan to help slow or reverse disease progression, improve lower extremity circulation, ease related skin symptoms, and avoid worsening complications.
The bottom line? Venous disease and the skin changes it causes are both treatable, and early intervention offers the best chances of improving the problem and protecting your health.
Give us a call today to learn more, or click online to schedule a visit at your nearest Vascular Vein Centers office in College Park of Orlando, Waterford Lakes of East Orlando, Kissimmee, Davenport/Haines City, Lake Mary, or The Villages, Florida, any time.