When you do Internet research on varicose vein treatments, you will usually come across a variation of this phrase: “Varicose veins often cause only cosmetic problems, but sometimes they also lead to serious health issues.”
Among the issues those posts refer to are cellulitis and venous eczema, and while treatable, they can be devastating.
Both cellulitis (which is an infection not related to the type of fat called cellulite) and eczema cause similar-looking problems: Your skin turns red and swollen. It is tender and might itch. Blisters and sores can appear. Not only are they hard to look at, they cause severe pain.
Varicose veins lead to both Cellulitis or Eczema directly and indirectly.
Inflammation in a varicose vein might provide a pathway for bacteria to cause an infection, which becomes cellulitis. You likely would notice a small, painful and red area on the surface of the skin. In the beginning, the symptoms are similar to those of varicose veins. But with cellulitis, the infection will spread and the area will become swollen and feel warm to the touch. Blisters might form and you could develop a fever or swelling in lymph nodes.
A doctor will prescribe antibiotics — intravenously if symptoms are severe – that will cure the infection. However, nearly a third of people with cellulitis will get another case sometime in the future.
Venous eczema can also be a result of the extra leg pressure caused by varicose veins, causing skin to be itchy with a rash, dry and flaky or even scaly and crusty.
Eczema is not bacterial and is treated with steroid creams and topical ointments. At the same time, the disease can cause the skin on your lower leg to become thin, allowing scratches or small sores to easily develop. If bacteria enter through those small injuries, a patient can have both eczema and cellulitis.
Sometimes cellulitis is diagnosed when eczema is the real issue, which is a problem because they have completely different treatments.
If you have varicose veins, you should be vigilant about the condition of your legs. At the first signs of cellulitis or eczema contact your vein doctor and seek immediate treatment before symptoms get worse.