Could Rashes or Sores on Your Legs Be Related to Varicose Veins?
When people think of varicose veins they often associate the term with tell-tale bluish, ropey veins that are physically visible just under the surface of the skin on the legs. But not all varicose veins are visible, so others are more likely to associate the condition with uncomfortable symptoms such as swelling, aching, heaviness, cramping, or restless legs.
But have you or a loved one ever had rashes or sores on your legs that would not go away with the use of over-the-counter creams and medications? Have you wondered if these rashes and sores may be related to varicose veins, whether you can see evidence of the problematic veins on the surface of your skin or not?
Varicose veins raise pressure within your legs’ veins over prolonged periods of time, which causes an inflammatory response in the skin. This inflammation can lead to skin rashes and sores that range in severity, and ultimately can be quite difficult to manage.
Varicose Vein Related Skin Problems
When the one-way valves in your leg’s veins become weak or damaged, blood pools in the veins rather than returning to the heart as it’s supposed to. This abnormal pattern of circulation within varicose veins, along with inflammation, causes varicose—or “enlarged”—veins.
The resulting symptoms are typically swelling, aching, heaviness, and cramping. Over time, leg rashes and sores become symptoms of later-stage varicose veins that have not been treated.
Leg rashes caused by varicose veins can become extremely itchy and irritated. Symptoms may include:
- Itching and burning
- Brown or dark yellow discoloration
- Swelling of the skin
- Dry, flaky, crusty or scaly skin
- Tenderness or tightness
These symptoms may be constant or seem to occur periodically. Rashes and sores from varicose veins can progress and result in more severe conditions such as open sores or ulcers, which are painful and difficult to treat.
Rashes & Sores Associated with Varicose Veins
The backward flow through varicose veins increases pressure in the varicose vein. The resulting inflammation can cause a rash-like condition called venous stasis dermatitis or varicose eczema.
Varicose eczema can cause the skin to become red and intensely itchy. Red or purple sores may also develop, and more severe scaly sores might ooze fluid and then scab over.
Skin Changes and Discoloration
When the skin and the fat under the skin have been inflamed for years, particularly around the ankles, the tissues can become hardened and a dark yellow to brown color. This condition is called lipodermatosclerosis.
In a similar condition called panniculitis, the skin may become sore and inflamed around the ankles rather than being hardened and brown or yellow. Any of the resulting symptoms from these two conditions—hardened, discolored, sore, or inflamed skin—should be evaluated by a vein specialist.
Skin Ulcers Caused by Varicose Veins
Untreated varicose veins can ultimately lead to skin ulcers. When damaged veins have caused chronic inflammation and pressure within the veins, white blood cells migrate to the inflammation. Again, like rashes and sores, this often occurs on the inside of the ankle but can also occur on the calf.
A common precursor symptom of ulcers is a gradual darkening and thinning of the skin which evolves into an open sore, or ulcer. This is considered late-stage vein disease, meaning the worst-case scenario of untreated venous insufficiency. These venous ulcers can be extremely painful, not to mention unsightly, and may limit one’s mobility and reduce quality of life.
Venous ulcers can also become easily infected, requiring antibiotic treatment and wound care. Skin ulcers caused by untreated varicose veins often take months (or, in some cases, never) to heal and if untreated are likely to recur.
What Can You Do About Skin Conditions Caused by Varicose Veins?
The good news is that the majority of varicose vein skin conditions, including rashes and sores or ulcers, are preventable with early diagnosis and proper treatment. Treating varicose veins before they progress is the best way to avoid skin problems, but in the meantime there are steps you can take to alleviate any uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins:
5 Ways to Alleviate Symptoms Of Varicose Veins:
- Encourage blood circulation in your veins by taking a walk or doing other exercises that flex your calves throughout the day.
- Wear compression stockings to encourage circulation in your legs.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. If your job requires you to do either, take breaks every 30 minutes or so to stand if you’ve been sitting, or to sit if you’ve been standing.
- Elevate your legs above heart level for 15-20 minutes to increase circulation from your legs to your heart.
- Since excess weight puts more pressure on your veins, maintaining a healthy weight can alleviate the pressure.
Is it Time to Seek Treatment?
If you are concerned that the sores or rashes on your legs are related to varicose veins or your symptoms are worsening, do not hesitate to consult a vein specialist. Varicose veins are a chronic and progressive condition, so they will not go away or get better over time.
At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, we’ve helped many people get rid of their varicose veins so they don’t have to suffer from symptoms such as rashes, sores, swelling, aching, throbbing, heaviness, or restless legs.
As the first physician dedicated solely to the treatment of varicose vein disease in Tennessee, Dr. Douglass and East Tennessee Vein Clinic leads the region in experience and expertise of varicose veins. We treat varicose veins differently than other clinics precisely because of our dedication to treating the root cause and the full extent of each patient’s varicose vein disease.