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Why do my legs itch?

Varicose and spider veins have many associated symptoms.  Most people realize their legs ache or feel heavy, but varicose veins and spider veins also can cause leg swelling, skin discoloration, venous eczema, restless leg syndrome and venous ulcers.  Itching is a very aggravating symptom of varicose veins and spider veins.  Many people seen in our Minneapolis/St. Paul area vein specialty center have tried numerous creams and other remedies and have failed to rid of the annoying itch.  Some people have scratched enough to have broken their skin.  Patients here in our office are surprised to find that itching is a very common early symptom of venous insufficiency.

Venous insufficiency occurs when the one-way valves in the leg veins are not functioning allowing blood to flow backwards towards the feet.  The backward flow of blood leads to an inflammatory process in the skin – known as venous stasis dermatitis (stasis – meaning not flowing, dermatitis – meaning inflammation of the skin).

The exact cause of itching in this scenario has been extensively studied.  It is felt that the increased venous pressure causes the dermal (skin) capillaries (or tiny blood vessels) to leak.  This causes scarring and eventually decreased oxygen levels in the skin.  It is this ‘cascade of reactions’ which causes the skin to itch.  Many people discount their symptom of  itching.  If the itching is secondary to venous insufficiency, this is the very symptom that needs to be treated before skin lesions develop or worsen.  If venous stasis dermatitis is left untreated, eventually the skin will not heal and venous stasis ulcers can develop.

You can have venous insufficiency without visible varicose veins.  So, if you have symptoms of: itching, leg swelling, burning, heaviness, leg fatigue,  slow to heal wounds, skin discoloration, restless legs with or without  varicose or spider veins, – you may have venous insufficiency.

The first steps towards venous insufficiency treatment  is to have your venous system evaluated with a venous duplex ultrasound.  The vein mapping during ultrasound defines which vessels are causing a problem and from this a treatment plan can be made specifically for you.

Minimally invasive varicose veins and spider vein treatments are available.    There is no need to live with an annoying varicose vein itch or the itch caused by spider veins.  Our Twin Cities area vein center located in North Oaks, the Minnesota Vein Center and our vein professionals are available to answer your questions.  Call Minnesota Vein Center at  651-765-8346 or contact us at

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