Why Do Varicose Veins Cause Skin Problems?

One of the most common types of venous disease is varicose veins or venous reflux. In fact the Society for Vascular Surgery has deemed that almost 40 million Americans are affected by this condition. The affected veins swell and start to bulge out of the skin appearing blue in color. Some adults do not feel any pain or symptoms associated with varicose veins and choose not to get treated. The few who do choose to get treatment usually feel heaviness in the legs, or get leg cramps often and they cannot stand or sit for long periods of time.


Varicose Veins Left Untreated

Veins run throughout the body returning oxygen-poor blood back to the heart so that the arteries can disperse oxygen-rich blood. Within the veins, there are sets of valves that keep the blood flowing through the body in one direction. When these valves weaken the blood starts to flow backwards and builds up within the veins. Varicose veins occur mainly in superficial veins near the surface of the skin when the buildup of blood makes the veins swell and start to twist. These then protrude from the skin. The higher blood pressure found in varicose veins causes the valves to become defective. They can no longer prevent blood from flowing backwards and this ultimately can lead to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) if left untreated. This condition is linked to symptoms such as swollen and tight ankles or calves as well as tired, heavy or even achy legs. CVI can also lead to skin changes due to the higher blood pressure in the veins as this affects the fat and skin around the ankles.


The affected area may also suffer a pigmentation or change in skin color. This is referred to as hyperpigmentation, where patches of skin become darker than the skin in the surrounding area. After a patient has had CVI for quite some time the skin on their leg will appear shiny, thick and much darker in color.

Venous Stasis Ulcers

Poor blood circulation in the lower leg causes blood to pool in certain areas, which can then leak out of the vein. The seeping blood affects the surrounding tissue usually causing it to breakdown forming what is called an ulcer. These are generally shallow wounds found on the sides of the lower leg below the calf but above the ankle.

Treatment Options

Certain patients can use compression therapy if it is in the very first stages of the disease, but if the pain is already unbearable, you may want to abstain from this type of treatment. In reality, the underlying cause of most of the skin issues is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which will not go away on its own. In order to cure these different skin-related ailments, the CVI should be treated first. It is important to see your local vein clinic as soon as any of these symptoms appear. If, in fact, you do have CVI, you should get treatment before the symptoms worsen.

Dr. Kaveh at Alpha Vein Clinic treats all types of vein-related conditions including chronic venous insufficiency. If you have any questions about how to treat venous ulcers or hyper pigmentation give us a call to schedule a consultation at (702) 233-1849.