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Eczema types: Stasis dermatitis signs and symptoms

Early signs and symptoms

Most people develop stasis dermatitis when they have poor blood flow in their lower legs. The medical term for poor blood flow is venous insufficiency.

If you have been diagnosed with venous insufficiency, make an appointment to see a doctor if you notice any of these early signs and symptoms:

  • Itchy, dry, and discolored skin, especially over varicose veins

  • Skin feels irritated, discolored, and sore

  • Heaviness or aching in one or both legs when you stand or walk

  • Swelling, often on the inside of the ankle, at the end of the day

  • Swelling in your leg that clears when you sleep, but reappears once you get out of bed

Stasis dermatitis on the inner ankles

Stasis dermatitis usually begins on the inside ankles, causing discolored, dry, and itchy skin.

Stasis dermatitis inner ankles

Stasis dermatitis can worsen

When caught early and properly treated, you can prevent stasis dermatitis from worsening. Without proper treatment, stasis dermatitis can worsen and cause one or more of the following:

  • Deeply pigmented skin

  • Discolored, scaly skin that covers much of the lower legs and tops of the feet

  • Hardened skin

  • Intensely itchy skin

  • Wounds and sores

  • Shrinking in the lower part of the calf, often making the calf look like an upside-down bowling pin

  • Pain

The following pictures show what you may see when stasis dermatitis worsens.

Scaly, discolored skin can cover the lower legs and tops of the feet

As the disease worsens, stasis dermatitis can cover more skin on the lower legs — and appear on the tops of your feet. You may see raised patches of discolored and scaly skin. The skin can crack and is often intensely itchy.

rough, scaly skin lower legs

Sore on skin with stasis dermatitis

The slightest injury can cause sores that open and bleed. A dermatologist should examine all wounds and sores.

stasis dermatitis sore

Long-standing stasis dermatitis

Without treatment, this disease can change the shape of your legs. The swelling no longer goes away while you sleep. The skin can harden, darken, and become very painful. The lower part of the calf can shrink, making your calf look like an upside-down bowling pin. The medical term for this condition is lipodermatosclerosis.

leg changes stasis dermatitis

Severe stasis dermatitis can be treated

While treatment can help ease pain and discomfort at any stage, treatment cannot cure stasis dermatitis. The earlier you catch and treat it, the better.

If stasis dermatitis spreads to the tops of the feet, wearing shoes can be painful — even with treatment.

Other medical conditions can also develop where a person has stasis dermatitis. Two that become more common as stasis dermatitis worsens are:

Some people have a higher risk of developing stasis dermatitis. To find out if you do, go to, Stasis dermatitis: Causes

Images 1, 2, 4: American Academy of Dermatology. “Stasis dermatitis and leg ulcers.” Basic Dermatology Curriculum. Last accessed August 28, 2020.

Image 3: Used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: 2009; 61:1028-32.

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

Flugman, SL et al. (authors) and Elston DM (editor). “Stasis dermatitis.” Medscape. Last updated Mar 27, 2020.

Habif TP, Campbell JL, et al. “Stasis dermatitis” (card #18). Dermatology DDxDeck. Mosby Elsevier 2006.

Reider N, Fritsch PO. “Other eczematous eruptions.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (fourth edition). Mosby Elsevier, China, 2018:235-6.

Sundaresan S, Migden MR, et al. “Stasis dermatitis: Pathophysiology, evaluation, and management. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2017;18(3):383-90.