An itch occurs and it’s scratched; rarely does anyone think beyond the relief of having that annoying sensation relieved. Chronic itchiness (pruritus) can be a symptom of a developing condition, especially vein disease. Not only does this itching cause discomfort as it’s not possible for a patient to relieve it through surface scratching, it can lead to serious tissue damage if left untreated. What causes the itching?
Chronic venous insufficiency causes the veins in the legs to thin and damages the vein valves which help prevent blood from pooling in the limbs. This can cause edema in the ankles and feet, create discoloration and swelling discomfort. Patients may develop varicose veins and ulcers as CVI progresses. Chronic itching is an early symptom of developing CVI as the vein walls weaken, allowing fluid and macromolecules to leak into surrounding tissues.
As blood remains in the veins rather than being forced through the circulatory system back to the heart, a patient may feel itchiness as the vessels struggle to move the blood. The reflex action caused by itching- scratching and rubbing — when it’s over, the malfunctioning valves can actually help to move the pooling blood through the vein. One sign of chronically pooling blood — and a warning symptom of possible CVI- is the damage to small capillaries, darkening the blood vessel’s tissue and leading to spider veins.
With the swelling of veins beneath the dermis, additional inflammation occurs as fluid leaks and the pressure compresses surrounding tissue. This leads to greater itchiness and can lead to ulcers as patients scratch for relief and open small wounds in the skin. Due to the lack of circulation, patients also develop leathery-looking skin tissue as well as flaky skin which may increase the discomfort. Improving circulation with treatment prescribed by a licensed physician can relieve the itchiness and prevent the development of varicose veins or greater vein disease.
Any chronic symptom should be reported to a licensed physician, even if it seems as insignificant as constant itching. A chronic symptom is the body’s way of drawing attention to a problem; no continual symptom should ever be ignored.