If you have varicose veins, you may develop varicose skin problems on your lower legs.. Here’s how the two are connected — and how you can soothe your varicose eczema symptoms.
Varicose eczema, also called venous, gravitational, or stasis dermatitis, is a long-term skin condition that affects the lower legs. It is most common among people with varicose veins. Although it typically impacts middle-aged and older adults, it is possible for younger people to develop the condition if they have a genetic predisposition to varicose veins.
A common disorder, varicose eczema is often uncomfortable and, if left untreated, it can result in skin break down resulting in venous stasis ulcers. Because of this, it is important for anyone — but especially individuals with varicose veins — to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease. This way, they can begin treating the condition as soon as it develops.
What Causes Varicose Eczema and How Is it Related to Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are the leading cause of varicose eczema because of the pressure that varicose veins can create on your legs. Normally, your blood moves from your legs back up to your heart easily. However, if you have varicose veins, the small valves in your leg vein cease to work properly. This makes it difficult for blood to be pushed upwards against gravity, causing your blood to flow backwards instead.
Problems with proper blood flow can cause increased pressure on your legs, pushing fluid out of your veins and into the tissues of your skin. This leakage can upset your immune system and stimulate a reaction that includes standard eczema symptoms like inflammation, irritation, and itchiness.
While the two conditions are often connected, having varicose veins does not always lead to varicose eczema. However, if you already have varicose veins, there are a few other factors that can increase your chances of developing the condition. These include:
- Gender: Varicose eczema is more common in women.
- Obesity: Obesity can increase the pressure in your leg veins.
- Pregnancy: Like obesity, pregnancy can also increase the pressure in your leg veins.
- Increasing age: As people get older, they generally find it harder to move — which can impact circulation.
What Are the Symptoms of Varicose Eczema?
The symptoms of varicose eczema typically emerge in the lower or upper legs, though they can appear elsewhere as well. The main symptoms of the condition mirror those of any other kind of eczema. Typically, the affected skin can become:
- Itchy and swollen
- Scaly or crusty
- Dry and flaky
- Discolored, with the skin appearing red or brown on lighter skin and dark brown, purple, or gray on darker skin.
While these are the main symptoms, some people also experience additional symptoms including pain, tender and tight skin that can eventually become hardened (lipodermatosclerosis), small white scars (atrophie blanche), or leg ulcers if the varicose eczema is left untreated. As with many other skin conditions, there may be periods when these symptoms are more severe and times when they seem to improve.
How to Soothe Varicose Eczema
There are a number of remedies you can use to help soothe your varicose eczema. Some common remedies include:
1. Compression stockings
Compression stockings are a standard form of treatment for varicose veins because they can help improve circulation by putting pressure on your legs. You will likely need to wear them daily.
2. Topical corticosteroids
Your doctor may prescribe topical steroid creams that can be applied to the affected area to reduce swelling and inflammation. You should avoid using these over a prolonged period of time as they may have other effects.
Emollients or moisturizers are applied topically to the skin to prevent dryness or irritation with varicose eczema. There are a wide range of emollients to choose from, so you should speak with your doctor about which will work best for your skin type.
Gentle but brisk exercise – like walking and yoga – can encourage blood circulation throughout the body, regulating the passage of blood through inflamed or dilated veins. This can then strengthen the vein walls and prevent fluid from leaking out into the surrounding tissues, reducing the inflammatory responses from the immune system that lead to varicose eczema.
5. Elevating your legs
When you keep your legs elevated, you can reduce inflammation and help regulate the circulation of blood throughout your body.
Treating Your Varicose Eczema
If you believe you may have varicose eczema — or if you simply want to know what you can do to reduce your chances of developing the condition — make an appointment!