Stasis dermatitis and ulcers

Definition

Stasis dermatitis is a change in the skin that results for the pooling of blood in the veins of the lower leg. Ulcers are open sores that can result from untreated stasis dermatitis.

Causes

Venous insufficiency is a long-term (chronic) condition in which the veins have problems sending blood from the legs back to the heart. This may be due to damaged valves that are in the veins. 

Some people with venous insufficiency develop stasis dermatitis. Blood pools in the veins of the lower leg. Fluid and blood cells leak out of the veins into the skin and other tissues. This may lead to itching and inflammation, which cause more skin changes. The skin may then break down to form open sores.

Symptoms

You may have symptoms of venous insufficiency including:

At first, the skin of the ankles and lower legs may look thin or tissue-like. You may slowly get brown stains on the skin.

The skin may become irritated or crack if you scratch it. It may also become red or swollen, crusted, or weepy.

Over time, some skin changes become permanent:

Skin sores (ulcers) may develop (called a venous ulcer or stasis ulcer). These most often form on the inside of the ankle.

Exams and Tests

The diagnosis is primarily based on the way the skin looks. Your health care provider may order tests to examine the blood flow in your legs.

Stasis dermatitis can also be related to heart problems or other conditions that cause leg swelling. Your provider may need to check your general health and order more tests.

Treatment

Your provider may suggest the following to manage the venous insufficiency that causes stasis dermatitis:

Some skin care treatments can make the problem worse. Talk with your provider before using any lotions, creams, or antibiotic ointments.

Things to avoid:

Treatments your provider may suggest include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Stasis dermatitis is often a long-term (chronic) condition. Healing is related to the successful treatment of the cause, factors causing the ulcer, and prevention of complications.

Possible Complications

Complications of stasis ulcers include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you develop leg swelling or symptoms of stasis dermatitis.

Watch for signs of infection such as:

Prevention

To prevent this condition, control the causes of swelling of the leg, ankle, and foot (peripheral edema).


Review Date: 10/14/2018
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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