Stasis Dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis occurs when veins lose the ability to pump blood back to the heart (poor venous circulation). It causes a reddish-purple to brownish scaly, itchy rash on the legs. The rash comes from pooling of blood (stasis).

CAUSES

This occurs because the veins do not work very well anymore or because pressure may be increased in the veins due to other conditions. With blood pooling, the increased pressure in the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) causes fluid to leak out of the capillaries into the tissue. The extra fluid makes it harder for the blood to feed the cells and get rid of waste products.

SYMPTOMS

Stasis dermatitis appears as red, scaly, itchy patches on the legs. A yellowish or light brown discoloration is also present. Due to scratching or other injury, these patches can become an ulcer. This ulcer may remain for long periods of time. The ulcer can also become infected. Swelling of the legs is often present with stasis dermatitis. If the leg is swollen, this increases the risk of infection and further damage to the skin. Sometimes, intense itching, tingling, and burning occurs before signs of stasis dermatitis appear. You may find yourself scratching the insides of your ankles or rubbing your ankles together before the rash appears. After healing, there are often brown spots on the affected skin.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver makes this diagnosis based on an exam. Other tests may be done to better understand the cause.

TREATMENT

If underlying conditions are present, they must be treated. Some of these conditions are heart failure, thyroid problems, poor nutrition, and varicose veins.

  • Cortisone creams and ointments applied to the skin (topically) may be needed, as well as medicine to reduce swelling in the legs (diuretics).

  • Compression stockings or an elastic wrap may also be needed to reduce swelling.

  • If there is an infection, antibiotic medicines may also be used.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Try to rest and raise (elevate) the affected leg above the level of the heart, if possible.

  • Burow's solution wet packs applied for 30 minutes, 3 times daily, will help the weepy rash. Stop using the packs before your skin gets too dry. You can also use a mixture of 3 parts white vinegar to 1 quart water.

  • Grease your legs daily with ointments, such as petroleum jelly, to fight dryness.

  • Avoid scratching or injuring the area.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your rash gets worse.

  • An ulcer forms.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C), not controlled by medicine.

  • You have any other severe symptoms.