Capitol Vein Blog

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Legs Are So Itchy … Could I Have Varicose Veins?


I recently saw a patient in our Frederick, Maryland office whose varicose veins were causing very significant itching, so much that her constant scratching was causing sores on her legs. She did not have the common symptoms of heaviness or aching in the leg, but the itching was causing great distress.

It's difficult to predict the exact symptoms that a patient will experience with varicose veins, as some only have leg swelling in the absence of pain or throbbing. Itching seems to be caused by the stretch of the vein wall caused by the elevated venous pressures (venous hypertension).  We also know that when patients suffer with varicose veins for many years, they are prone to developing chronic inflammation of the tissues surrounding these veins. This inflammation can also be a source of itching. In its advanced form, this chronic inflammation leads to a permanent skin thickening and leathery texture, predisposing to venous ulceration.

Fortunately, it's easy to prevent the progression to permanent skin damage and potential ulcers by eliminating the source of the elevated pressure in the vein. While vein stripping was the norm many years ago, the introduction of newer techniques have allowed more effective office-based therapies that are less painful and allow immediate return to normal activities. 

Patients still have the misconception that varicose vein issues are "cosmetic" and not covered by their health insurance, but in fact most insurers recognize the medical conditions that exist with varicose veins. The most effective treatments are endovenous ablation with the Venefit Procedure, micro-phlebectomy and sclerotherapy.

I would encourage patients with varicose veins and itching to seek attention and treatment, as restoring the leg circulation to normal will help tremendously. Rethinking varicose vein evaluation will prove beneficial and lead to better leg health.

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