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How do varicose veins affect the surrounding skin?

I have noticed that the skin around my calf varicose veins is much more sensitive and itchy than on the rest of my body. It looks I have a rash or some kind of fungal infection. Is this normal? How do varicose veins affect the surrounding skin? What can I do to improve my skin's health if I have varicose veins?

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Doctors Answers (3)

Venous blood returns circulated blood back towards the heart and removes cellular waste materials from the tissues including nitrogenous waste, CO2, acids, etc. which, if not cleared, can accumulate and affect the quality and appearance of the skin. Varicose veins cause an increase in venous pressure with poor venous blood flow. Depending on the extent and location of the problem it may present as itching and irritation, or as a darkened, dry scaly patch(es) on the skin of the lower legs, shins and ankles. Treating the underlying problem including the varicose veins will help improve venous blood flow and skin quality, stopping or reducing the progression of the problem and usually also improving the appearance of the skin.

Varicose veins can cause many different skin changes from localized itching, redness, brown/greenish pigmentation, rashes, ulcers (wounds) and bleeding. These can be in addition to pain, aching, heaviness, leg cramps, restlessness, etc. The vein wall and overlying skin can become thinned. None of these problems is "normal" and are an indication that there could be an underlying cause such as saphenous reflux. This problem is easily treated in an office setting under local anesthetic, walk in, walk out. You should seek an evaluation from a board certified, vascular trained surgeon who specializes in treating varicose veins. This will include a comprehensive ultrasound examination and with such signs and symptoms, insurance should cover the treatments.

Varicose veins and venous insufficiency cause high pressures within the veins of the legs, especially around the lower calf and ankle. These high pressures force fluid, protein, and blood cells through the walls of microscopic veins into the surrounding fatty tissues and skin. These substances cause an inflammatory condition which injures the tissues and one of the visible changes is a rash or red-brown color of the skin above the ankles. The microsopic arerial circulation of the skin is affected as well and minor injuries become non-healing ulcers over time. Maintain a normal body weight, avoid prolonged sitting or standing when feasible, exercise, use calf muscle exercises or walking to pump blood from the calf muscles toward the heart, periodically elevate your legs higher than your heart, learn to wear elastic compression stockings, and get your varicose veins treated before they cause skin changes such as you describe.

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