Varicose veins are a well-known and common concern for many people, and can develop beyond simply the bulging vein itself. Along with the painful and blue-greenish vein, it’s common to develop a feeling of heavy legs, as well as numerous skin problems such as varicose eczema. This is surprisingly common, with some research showing that 20 percent of people over 70 have it.
What is Varicose Eczema and How Does it Form?
Varicose eczema is a condition that develops alongside varicose veins. Varicose veins occur when the small valves inside the veil fail, and blood leaks into the tissues around the broken valve. They most typically occur inside the legs, as the valves need to work against both the flow of the blood from the heart, and the force of gravity putting pressure down on the leg veins.
When the blood leaks into the surrounding tissues instead of being circulated normally by the veins, venous insufficiency can develop. This is where the appropriate nutrients and oxygen that the blood normally delivers, does not occur. Varicose eczema develops because of this venous insufficiency. The first symptoms are heavy, swollen legs, followed by dry, itchy, or irritated skin around the varicose vein. After this, the skin can become red and painful, and may begin to crack or turn into sores or ulcers.
If left untreated, this venous eczema can develop into fibrotic or red pigmented skin, intense itching, and sores or ulcers can allow bacterial infection to enter, turning into cellulitis. Varicose eczema is most likely to develop in patients with varicose veins, high blood pressure, blood clots, surgery in the area, or kidney failure.
How Can Varicose Eczema Be Treated?
One of the frontline treatments for varicose eczema is using compression stockings, as these can help to promote blood circulation in the area, reduce pressure, and reduce swelling. When wearing compression stockings, be sure to get the correct level of compression and wear the stockings appropriately, or they could dig into your legs uncomfortably or have too much pressure on the leg.
Also ensure that you don’t spend too much time sitting or standing, as this can exacerbate the vein problems and the eczema as a result. Make sure to get up and move around regularly, but spend time off your feet as well. A helpful approach is to keep legs elevated when possible, to allow blood to flow more easily from the legs back towards the heart. This can reduce swelling and provide temporary relief from itchiness and pain. In some cases, medication may be useful, such as steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics to deal with any skin infection that has developed, or antihistamines to reduce the itchiness and irritation.
Furthermore, if the venous eczema has come about as a result of a varicose vein, treatment for the underlying vein problem may also resolve the eczema. Varicose vein surgery is a simple and minimally-invasive outpatient treatment, which takes in most cases only a couple of hours. Surgeries can be heat-based or chemical-based, but both approaches seal off the leaking vein and prevent the blood from further spreading into the surrounding tissue.
Varicose eczema may be painful or uncomfortable, but you don’t have to live with it without treatment. First, try compression stockings, elevate your legs, and take any medication prescribed or recommended by your doctor. As a next step, consider surgery to fix any underlying venous issues such as varicose veins.