Stasis Dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis is a form of eczema that develops in the lower legs as result of poor blood flow.

Fluid builds up in the legs causing them to swell and the development of a rash with itching, thin and discolored skin. Stasis dermatitis is also referred to as “gravitational dermatitis” because of the effect of gravity that causes the fluids to settle in the lower legs where the skin changes arise.

This type of dermatitis usually develops in people who are middle-aged or older.

Effective treatment of stasis dermatitis involves treating the skin and the underlying circulatory problem. Stasis dermatitis often is a chronic condition that requires appropriate skin care even after the symptoms clear.

Signs and Symptoms of Statis Dermatitis

Signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Swelling in one or both lower legs. In severe cases, the swelling can include the foot and extend to the knee.
  • Leg pain
  • Itching, sometimes severe
  • Thin and inflamed skin
  • Open sores that can be painful, ooze, and heal slowly
  • Reddish brown discoloration of the skin

Risk Factors

In addition to advanced age, other risk factors for developing stasis dermatitis include:

  • A deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Surgery, or injury that damages the veins in the lower leg
  • Varicose veins
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Heart condition, such as congestive heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Diabetes

People who develop stasis dermatitis have an increased risk of developing other medical conditions, including contact dermatitis and cellulitis (a skin infection).

Treatment of Stasis Dermatitis

Those with stasis dermatitis may be advised to take the following steps:

  • Elevate the legs above the heart. When sitting and sleeping, this can improve circulation in the legs and decrease swelling.
  • Wear a compression stocking while awake. Sometimes compression boots are prescribed. Both the stockings and the boots can improve circulation.
  • Treat underling conditions, such as congestive heart failure. Treatment may involve taking a low-dose diuretic or other medication that reduces the fluid build up in the legs.
  • Apply a low-dose topical corticosteroid. Corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone, can be applied to the skin can reduce itching.
  • Avoid scratching. This is important to prevent skin infection.
  • Apply a topical antibiotic. An antibiotic may be recommended if the skin becomes infected.
  • Take regular walks. This helps to move the fluid out of the legs.
  • Avoid standing for long periods
  • Moisturize the legs regularly. Apply a moisturizer to the skin, particularly after bathing to help hold in moisture.

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Last updated: 1/8/2019