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Eczema types: Stasis dermatitis overview


What is stasis dermatitis?

Stasis dermatitis

What is stasis dermatitis?
This is a common type of eczema that develops in people who have poor blood flow. Because poor blood flow usually develops in the lower legs, stasis dermatitis often appears near your ankles.

Stasis dermatitis can occur in other areas of the body aside from the lower legs, but that’s rare.

Is it contagious? No

Early signs of stasis dermatitis

Swelling and faintly discolored skin, especially over varicose (enlarged, bulging) veins, are often the first signs of this disease.

Early stasis dermatitis

While stasis dermatitis is not contagious, it is common. Researchers believe that in the United States, about 15 to 20 million people over 50 years of age live with the disease.1

You may know of stasis dermatitis by another name. It’s also called gravitational dermatitis, venous eczema, or varicose eczema.

These other names may better describe what’s going on in the body. As we age, valves inside the lower legs can begin to weaken. It’s the job of these one-way valves to push blood up the legs toward the heart. When these valves weaken, some fluid can leak out and stay in the legs, causing them to swell. When this happens, a person has a medical condition known as venous insufficiency. The pooling of fluid that people with venous insufficiency experience is called stasis.

While the risk of developing venous insufficiency increases with age, the condition can also occur after a bad leg injury, blood clot in your leg, or surgery.

If you’ve been diagnosed with venous insufficiency, dermatologists recommend that you be under a doctor’s care for this condition. Treatment and healthy habits can prevent the condition from worsening.

Healthy habits that may improve blood flow to your legs include:

  • Elevating your legs when sitting

  • Exercising as recommended

  • Walking briskly for 10 minutes after sitting or standing for an hour

If you have venous insufficiency, dermatologists also recommend that you look at the skin on your legs frequently. Stasis dermatitis develops on skin affected by poor blood flow. Not everyone who has venous insufficiency will develop stasis dermatitis, but poor blood flow increases your risk.

If you have venous insufficiency and notice changes to the overlying skin, it’s time to see a dermatologist. Proper treatment and lifestyle changes can prevent stasis dermatitis from worsening.

As the disease worsens, the swelling (which early on tends to clear while you sleep) may not go away. The skin can become sensitive to touch. Applying a skin care product like your favorite lotion to the dry, itchy skin can burn and sting.

To help you recognize stasis dermatitis, you’ll find pictures and descriptions at, Stasis dermatitis: Signs and symptoms.


Image
American Academy of Dermatology. “Stasis dermatitis and leg ulcers.” Basic Dermatology Curriculum. Last accessed August 28, 2020.

Reference
1Flugman, SL et al. (authors) and Elston DM (editor). “Stasis dermatitis.” Medscape. Last updated May 2020.

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