“Is Varicose Eczema Serious?” Yes, but Why and How?
Varicose eczema is an inflamed area of skin on the leg caused by a fault in the function of the veins under the skin called superficial venous reflux or by a problem in the deep veins following a deep vein thrombosis. Yes, it is a serious condition because it is a warning sign that you are at risk of a leg ulcer. Varicose eczema becomes urgent if symptoms are very troublesome. Here is what you need to know.
What is the cause of varicose eczema?
Varicose eczema is caused by a malfunction of the veins of the legs. Blood doesn’t flow normally and the skin does not receive the nutrients and oxygen that it needs to remain healthy. The skin is damaged and responds by becoming inflamed. Inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury. The skin becomes red, itchy and thickened. All areas of inflamed skin look pretty much the same in the early stages. From the outside, the skin simply looks like a patch of dermatitis or eczema. Importantly, the underlying problem with varicose eczema is not in the skin, but in the veins.
What does varicose eczema look like?
The characteristic feature of varicose eczema is its position on the leg. Nearly all cases of varicose eczema appear around the ankle, just above the ankle bones. So, any patch of dry, scaly, red itchy skin around the ankle should be regarded as varicose eczema until proven otherwise.
What should I do if I have varicose eczema?
Firstly, you should seek a medical opinion. Varicose eczema is a serious medical condition. It is not urgent, so you have time to seek proper medical treatment.
What are the Home Remedies for Varicose Eczema?
There are many things you should consider if you have varicose eczema.
The following steps may help reduce the symptoms of varicose eczema and help prevent further problems:
- Try to avoid injuring your skin – injuries to your skin could lead to an ulcer developing
- Raise your legs when you’re resting – for example, by propping up your feet on some pillows (ideally so that they’re above the level of your heart), as this can help reduce swelling
- Keep physically active – this will improve your circulation and help you maintain a healthy weight
- Use a moisturiser
- Consider wearing Compression stockings
Can Varicose Eczema be Cured?
The majority of people with varicose eczema have a problem with the leg veins that can be cured by non-invasive procedures under local anaesthetic on a walk-in walk out basis — procedures such as laser, radiofrequency, foam sclerotherapy or superglue.
If the varicose eczema has been a problem for many years, the skin may have been damaged and there may be permanent scarring which cannot be repaired by the body’s natural healing processes. Therefore, even if the underlying vein problem is cured, the skin may not completely return to normal. The sooner the veins are dealt with the better.
Can Dermatologists Treat Varicose Eczema?
Dermatologists or GPs with alot of experience and knowledge of skins conditions can help with varicose eczema in 2 ways:
- To make a diagnosis
- To help with the distressing symptoms of itch
However, once the diagnosis is confirmed, the advice of a vein specialist should be sought and if a vein problem can be treated, the underlying issues with veins should be dealt with. Long term use of steroid creams, which can be helpful in the early stages should be avoided. Steroid creams will quickly settle the itch and redness, but if used for a long time, they actually thin the skin and the skin becomes more vulnerable to injury.
Why is varicose eczema serious?
Varicose eczema should be taken seriously. It is a warning sign that the skin is being damaged by inflammation and if neglected and not treated, varicose eczema will progress to a leg ulcer. In the initial stages, varicose eczema may come and go. If you are healthy with good healing powers, the balance between the damage caused by faulty veins and your natural healing processes may be tipped in favour of the healing processes. What that means is that with good moisturisation and self-care, the area may clear up and you may get the impression that the condition has gone away completely. However, as time goes by, as the damage gets worse, the injury caused by poor nutrient supply and lack of oxygen to the skin may exceed the capacity of the healing processes to repair the skin. When this happens, the eczema does not go away, it gets worse, and the home remedies that used to help no longer do so. As time goes by, some of the damage is reversible but more and more of the skin is damaged beyond repair. At this stage, the area may be permanently scarred and discoloured.
When does varicose eczema become an urgent problem?
Initially varicose eczema looks very minor – just a little rash that comes and goes. With time it will get worse and at some stage, it will not only be serious, but it becomes urgent. In my opinion, varicose eczema is an urgent medical issue when:
- If the area is very itchy, then it is possible that you might scratch it in your sleep, damage the skin and actually cause a leg ulcer. I see many people who have been “driven crazy by itchiness” and who have woken up in the morning to find the sheets have blood on them and they have a break in the skin – a leg ulcer.
- If you knock the area and it bleeds, then this is urgent. The skin is unhealthy and it will not heal properly.
- If the area is weepy and fluid is leaking out the area of varicose eczema then there is a break in the skin and you are at risk of infection.
- If you actually have an infection. If there is pus, spreading redness and pain, you probably have an infection. If you develop a high temperature, fever, shivers or if you feel generally unwell, you probably have an infection and you should seek immediate medical help.
- Referral to a vein specialist for a duplex ultrasound scan is essential in all cases of varicose eczema. Ultrasound will detect the exact vein abnormality and the results of the scan will form the basis of the plan for curative treatment.
- Varicose Eczema is a complication of leg vein problems.
- Varicose Eczema indicates that the skin is being damaged and that the area is at risk of ulcers.
- Moisturising creams are helpful and there are many self-help things you can do at home
- Steroid creams provide temporary relief but if used frequently, the skin becomes more vulnerable to injury and ulceration