Varicose eczema, or stasis dermatitis: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Stasis dermatitis or varicose eczema, is a kind of eczema, a skin disorder that can occur in people who have varicose veins. It happens because of poor circulation. It usually affects the lower legs, and sores may develop.

Other names for the condition are gravitational dermatitis and venous eczema.

It is most common in adults especially if a person is overweight. Studies suggest that 20 percent of people over the age of 70 years have it.


[stasis dermatitis-from Keith Ciampa healthline]
In statis dermatitis, poor circulation leads to a skin condition.
Image credit: Keith Ciampa, Healthline

Stasis dermatitis happens when blood flow in the lower legs becomes compromised, and the valves in the veins weaken, causing a leakage of blood into body tissues.

This is called venous insufficiency, and it can cause the symptoms of stasis dermatitis to develop.

At first, symptoms will affect the ankles. There may be:

Heavy or aching legs when standing for a prolonged period

Swelling that appears toward the end of the day and lessens after sleeping overnight

Varicose veins covered with dry, itchy, or irritated skin

Red, swollen, and painful skin, which may be weeping and crusty

In time, these problems extend upward to the calf of the leg, and other symptoms develop.

These include:

Skin that is dry, cracked, shiny, and itchy

Purple or red sores, or venous ulcers, on the lower legs and the tops of the feet

The skin becomes scaly with sores that weep and crust. Bacterial infection may develop, and the skin color changes. As the sores heal, they form scabs and scars.

In some people, eczema may affect other parts of the body.

Untreated, the condition can gradually worsen.

This can lead to:

Hard areas of thickened, fibrotic skin

Shrinking of the lower part of the leg

Deeply pigmented skin

Red and scaly skin in the affected area

Intense itching in the skin

Further complications can then arise.

The cracks and poor skin condition make it possible for bacterial infection to enter the skin. Cellulitis can develop and spread through the leg. Cellulitis is a serious infection that affects the deeper body tissues.

The effect of stasis dermatitis on the skin, together with the application of different medications, can cause it to become extremely sensitive and painful to touch. This is known as contact dermatitis.

People with varicose veins are more likely to develop varicose eczema.
People with varicose veins are more likely to develop varicose eczema.

The legs have valves that enable blood to be pumped upward toward the heart. As people get older, these valves weaken, and the blood can leak out and pool in the lower leg, causing swelling and a condition known as venous insufficiency.

These circulatory problems can lead to blood leakage and cell death, and it can develop into stasis dermatitis.

At increased risk are those who have, or have had:

Venous insufficiency

Varicose veins

High blood pressure or a heart condition

A blood clot, for example, deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Surgery to the area

Kidney failure

Lifestyle factors include:

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