The Clinic is Closed

Why do varicose veins itch?

Varicose veins are often painful and itchy. Although most people experience pain, throbbing and swelling  from varicose veins, many can also develop itchiness that can be irritating and can disturb sleep.

Itch might seem to be a rather odd varicose vein symptom. However here are the 2 main reasons why so many people have itchy veins.

  1. Increased histamine: Varicose Veins have faulty valves. The resulting Superficial Vein Reflux is associated with inflammation. Histamine is one of the major hormones that is released from areas with inflammation. Histamine is same hormone released during an allergic reaction. 
  2. Oedema Fluid : As a result of Superficial Vein Reflux, fluid builds up around the unhealthy veins. This build up of fluid is called Venous Oedema

    The presence of high back pressure in the capillaries caused by the Venous Oedema damages the microcirculation leading to Varicose Eczema and then Leg Ulceration in some individuals. Varicose Eczema and Venous Oedema should be treated at an early stage to prevent Leg Ulcers.

What can I do about Varicose Vein Itch? 

Uncontrolled scratching can cause a Leg Ulcer

  • Avoid scratching: Easier said than done, but scratching the itchy areas can actually worsen the itch, as it can lead to injury and more inflammation. A vicious cycle of itch-scratching-itch can occur. Scratching can also cause breaks in the skin that may lead to an infection or even an ulcer.
  • Moisturise: Apply moisturising cream at least twice a day. Dry skin is more likely to itch and it is more vulnerable to injury.
  • Topical steroid cream: Hydrocortisone cream can be purchased over the counter and is a steroid cream that helps to reduce inflammation. This should be used according to the package instructions and use should be limited to 7 days, unless directed by a doctor. Prolonged use of steroid creams can thin the skin and actually make it more likely that you will develop an ulcer.
  • Anti-itch creams: Calamine lotion or a topical antihistamine can be applied to help with itch.
  • Compression socks: Medical Compression Socks help relieve symptoms. They also reduce the venous oedema and reduce the inflammation. If you do wear compression socks, be sure to moisturise your skin when you take them off in the evening. You only need to wear compression socks during the day.

I always recommend that people with varicose veins that are causing symptoms should  see a vein specialist. If a Duplex Ultrasound Scan shows that there is a problem in the leg veins that can be remedied, then treatment is advisable. This is also the advice of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.