Itchy legs are a lesser known symptom of varicose veins. But this irritating side-effect will often send patients rushing to their doctor.

If you’re wondering how a medical problem causes itchiness. It’s due to a condition called Varicose Eczema, or Stasis Dermatitis, which can develop in some patients suffering from vein disease. 

How does Varicose Eczema develop?

To understand this, lets first look at how varicose veins are caused. When vein valves, or vein walls, become damaged they can lead to Chronic Venous Insufficiency, or CVI. When this occurs, blood is not able to flow back up to the heart and it begins to reflux or pool, forming twisted, enlarged vessels you know as varicose veins.

CVI can happen for many reasons (see: varicose vein causes) with the most common being age, family history, and hormonal changes. Medical illustration of a normal vein and varicose vein. This is a header image for The Vein Institute's blog about

If varicose veins develop, red blood cells from the swollen veins can leak and disintegrate, depositing haemoglobin and other substances into muscle tissue and skin. The result is the skin covering the swollen veins can become irritated and inflamed. This leads to symptoms that start with itching but can quickly progress to tenderness or pain.

If untreated, varicose veins can lead to restless leg syndrome or cramping. The development of skin ulcers or thrombosis (blood clots). As well as darkening of the skin around the veins, which is known as varicose eczema.

How to treat itchy varicose veins

Varicose eczema can be treated in a number of ways, here are a few tips:

  • Moisturize: Apply at least twice a day to calm the irritated skin. It’s recommended to try something with a thick consistency, which is natural and free from perfumes. 
  • Avoid scratching:  It sounds counterproductive but scratching the itchy areas can often worsen the itch. Scratching can lead to further trauma in the vein and more histamine produced by the body.  Scratching can also cause cuts that lead to an infection. Or an ulcer which can form due to the excess swelling and fluid.
  • Topical steroid cream:  Hydrocortisone cream can be purchased over the counter. It is a steroid cream that helps to reduce skin inflammation.
  • Anti-itch creams:  Other anti-itch creams, like Calamine lotion or Stop-Itch that can be used to help with itch.
  • Antihistamines:  This medication helps to reduce the histamine, thereby reducing the itch.
  • Compression stockings: Wearing compression stockings can also help by improving circulation in the legs.
  • Keep moving: Light exercise, such as walking keeps the circulation in your legs moving. 

The Vein Institute Shop has a variety of non-surgical options to relieve the symptoms of varicose veins. 

Although the above will provide relief, unfortunately these will only treat the symptoms. To completely eliminate varicose eczema, the damaged veins will need to be treated or removed.