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Stasis dermatitis: Tips for managing


If you have stasis dermatitis, self-care is essential for getting stasis dermatitis under control and preventing it from worsening. Dermatologists often recommend the following tips to their patients who have stasis dermatitis: 

Elevate your legs above the heart: You’ll want to do this throughout the day. If possible, dermatologists recommend that you elevate your legs above your heart: 

  • Once every 2 hours for 15 minutes

  • While you sleep (keep your legs elevated with pillows)

Keep blood circulating

Elevating your legs above your heart can reduce the swelling in your legs. When you raise your legs above your heart, your blood can circulate easier and you reduce the swelling caused by blood and other fluids accumulating in your lower legs.

Take breaks when you must sit or stand for long periods.If you must sit or stand for long periods, take a break every hour and walk briskly for 10 minutes.

Get physical. Exercise can improve your circulation and strengthen your calf muscles. Ask your dermatologist how often you should exercise.

Wear loose-fitting cotton clothing. Wearing cotton clothes help to avoid irritation. Rough fabrics like wool, polyester, and rayon can irritate your skin.

Loose-fitting clothing is important, too. Tight waistbands and snug pants interfere with your circulation. When clothing rubs against the stasis dermatitis, it can irritate the sensitive skin.

Wear your compression garment if your dermatologist recommends one. Compression can:

  • Improve the circulation in your legs

  • Prevent open sores

  • Reduce your risk of another flare. 

Most patients stop wearing a compression garment (compression stockings or Unna boots) because it feels uncomfortable. The discomfort tends to lessen as the swelling subsides.

Avoid anything that could aggravate the stasis dermatitis. The skin with stasis dermatitis is very sensitive, so you want to prevent the stasis dermatitis from touching anything that could irritate it, such as:

  • Pet hair

  • Plants

  • Grass

  • Cleaning products

  • Perfume

  • Any skin care product that does not say “fragrance free.”

Apply moisturizer when your skin feels dry. Moisturizer helps prevent scaly skin and irritation. Petroleum jelly works well for most patients. If you prefer to use another moisturizer, choose an ointment or thick cream that says “fragrance free” on the container.

Avoid scratching the stasis dermatitis. Scratching can worsen stasis dermatitis and lead to an infection. To reduce the itch, apply your medicine as directed. Other ways to calm the itch include:

  • Applying a cool compress

  • Spreading on a fragrance-free moisturizer

  • Adding colloidal oatmeal to a cool bath

Take care when bathing. Soaps and rough-textured towels can irritate the stasis dermatitis. Dermatologists recommend the following to their patients with stasis dermatitis:

  • Use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser rather than soap. When you shower or take a bath, use this cleanser. Rinsing soap from other parts of your body can irritate the stasis dermatitis.

  • After bathing, gently pat the water from your skin with a clean towel. You’ll want to keep a bit of water on the skin with stasis dermatitis.

  • Within 2 minutes of bathing, apply petroleum jelly or a thick, creamy moisturizer that is fragrance free. This helps to keep moisture in your skin. Keeping your skin moisturized helps to prevent scaly skin and irritation.


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References
Flugman, SL et al. (authors) and Elston DM et al. (editors). “Stasis dermatitis.” Medscape. Last updated July 2014.

Fritsch PO and Reider N. “Other eczematous eruptions: Stasis dermatitis.” In: Bologna JL, Jorizzo JL, et. al. Dermatology(second edition), Elsevier Mosby, 2008:201-2.

Trayes KP, Studdiford JS, et. al. “Edema: Diagnosis and management.” Am Fam Physician. 2013 Jul 15;88(2):102-10.


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