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Stasis dermatitis: Signs and symptoms

Early signs and symptoms

Most people develop stasis dermatitis on their lower legs. When it begins in the legs, you may notice the following in one or both legs:

  • Heaviness or aching when you stand or walk for a long time

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

  • Swelling clears when you sleep, but re-appears during the day

  • Varicose veins

  • Itchy, dry skin over the varicose veins

  • Skin may feel irritated — red, swollen, and sore

Stasis dermatitis on the lower leg

Some people develop stasis dermatitissores that open and bleed. A dermatologist should examine all sores

Stasis dermatitis on the lower leg

Signs and symptoms as disease progresses

As the stasis dermatitis progresses, people often notice the following:

  • Swelling spreads beyond the ankle to the calf

  • Dry, cracked, itchy skin

  • Red to violet-colored open sores (medical term: venous ulcer), which can appear on the lower legs and tops of the feet

  • Sores leak fluid and scab as they heal

  • Sores can cause scars when they heal

  • Shiny skin

Severe stasis dermatitis

This patient has severe stasis dermatitis of the feet. Treatment and self-care can prevent stasis dermatitis from becoming severe.

severe stasis dermatitis

Severe stasis dermatitis

Left untreated, stasis dermatitis can worsen over the years and cause the following:

  • Area feels hard

  • Lower part of the calf shrinks, often making the calf look like an upside-down wine bottle

  • Skin becomes deeply pigmented

  • Redness and scale cover the area, including the top of the foot

  • Intensely itchy skin

Other medical conditions can develop where a person has stasis dermatitis. Two common conditions are:

Image #1 used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: 2009; 61:1028-32.

Image #2 used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides

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. alDermatology(second edition), Elsevier Mosby, 2008:201-2.

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

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

Weaver J, Billings SD. “Initial presentation of stasis dermatitis mimicking solitary lesions: A previously unrecognized clinical scenario.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2009 Dec;61(6):1028-32.

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