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Stasis dermatitis is also called gravitational dermatitis, venous eczema, and venous stasis dermatitis. It happens when there is a problem with circulation in the veins, generally in the lower legs. These problem veins cause pressure to build up as the blood tries to flow upward through the body and heart. This pressure makes fluid leak out of the veins and into the skin.
Symptoms of stasis dermatitis (venous eczema, gravitational dermatitis) include:
In severe cases of stasis dermatitis (venous eczema, gravitational dermatitis), there can be:
Over time, recurrent stasis dermatitis (venous eczema, gravitational dermatitis) can result in more permanent changes in the skin including:
People with stasis dermatitis are at increased risk of developing contact dermatitis.
Stasis dermatitis affects people with poor circulation. It usually affects people over the age of 50. Women are more likely to get it than men.
There are a number of conditions that can increase your risk for developing stasis dermatitis. These include:
Because the problem starts with poor circulation, your doctor may recommend treating the damaged veins in your legs by surgery. However, sometimes the surgery for the veins is not possible, or is not able to repair the veins completely.
Pressure stockings or wraps can be used to help mechanically move the fluid out of the skin and soft tissues. Elevating the legs at heart level once every two hours for 15 minutes and while you are sleeping will also help with swelling. For open sores or skin ulcers, a special dressing may need to be applied to promote healing.
Like in other forms of eczema, a topical steroid can help calm the inflammation and itch. Sometimes covering the steroid with wet or dry wrap or an Unna boot can greatly assist in severe cases. An Unna boot is a type of gauze bandage with healing medications in it and provides compression to help with fluid build up.
In cases where corticosteroids are not appropriate, or when they have been used for a prolonged period, a non-corticosteroid topical medication such as tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel) may be prescribed. The provider may also review medications that are known to have edema (swelling from fluid in the tissues) as a side effect, which can contribute to stasis dermatitis.
Stasis dermatitis tends (venous eczema, gravitational dermatitis) to come back until the underlying cause (damaged veins) is addressed.