What is Stasis Dermatitis?

Mary McMahon

Stasis dermatitis is a chronic skin irritation which occurs as a result of poor circulation, as blood pools in the extremities rather than circulating through the body. It most commonly is seen in the legs, especially near the calves and ankles, although it can also appear in the arms. Treating stasis dermatitis is a two-fold process which involves addressing the irritation and the underlying poor circulation which is causing it. Dermatologists typically handle the skin issue, while other practitioners such as cardiologists and internists may address the poor circulation.

Stasis dermatitis may occur near the ankles.
Stasis dermatitis may occur near the ankles.

When people have bad circulation, it's hard for venous blood to return to the heart. As a result, fluid starts to pool in the extremities, and the capillaries may break down, releasing red blood cells into the area and causing swelling. Over time, the tissue can become inflamed, and stasis dermatitis, also known as varicose eczema, can develop.

Compression stockings can improve circulation to prevent or treat stasis dermatitis.
Compression stockings can improve circulation to prevent or treat stasis dermatitis.

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The skin usually darkens in stasis dermatitis, and it can take on a thin, papery appearance. The patient may experience extreme itching at the site, and over time the skin can crack and ulcerate. The edema in the extremity can cause the region to appear and feel swollen, and the patient may experience discomfort. Stasis dermatitis can make it difficult to wear snug-fitting clothing and shoes, and it can also lead to psychological distress because the skin looks unappealing.

Topical steroid creams can be used to bring down the itching, and compression stockings can be utilized to push fluid back up the extremity. The stockings will also cut down on edema, although in order to be effective, they usually need to be worn for most of the day, which can become uncomfortable, especially in hot weather. If ulcerations have appeared, it may be necessary to give the patient antibiotics, as the wounds can contribute to the development of cellulitis and other infections, some of which can become extremely serious if not addressed.

Poor circulation can be a very serious problem, and it is definitely something which needs to be addressed, even if a case of stasis dermatitis is resolved. Some common causes include diabetes mellitus and congestive heart failure, both of which can be fatal if they are not properly managed. Even if the condition cannot be cured, it should be managed and monitored to keep the patient's general level of health reasonably high. Managing circulation conditions can also improve quality of life for patients.

Discussion Comments


Is there a cure for stasis dermatitis?

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