Stasis dermatitis, also known as venous stasis dermatitis or stasis eczema, is a common skin condition that typically affects the lower legs.
This condition may occur when veins (vessels that bring blood back toward the heart) function ineffectively, leading to fluid pooling within the legs (called venous stasis). As a result, the skin of the lower legs may become swollen, itchy, and discolored.
Stasis dermatitis is more common in older adults. With age, 1-way valves within veins may not work effectively and allow blood to pool in the legs. This causes leg swelling and skin inflammation that leads to a rash. Medical conditions that affect blood flow in the legs, such as a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis), surgery that affects leg veins, or congestive heart failure, may also lead to stasis dermatitis.
Patients with stasis dermatitis typically have swelling of 1 or both legs that can be more noticeable over the course of the day. They develop a red or brown itchy rash on 1 or both of their lower legs. The areas of the rash may be scaly and dry or drain clear liquid. If blood flow is severely affected, skin sores (ulcers) may develop.
Your physician may be able to diagnose this condition by examining your skin. They may order additional tests to evaluate your veins.
Treatment of stasis dermatitis includes identifying the underlying cause of venous stasis as well as taking steps to reduce leg swelling and blood pooling within the leg veins. Minimize standing for long periods, elevate your legs when seated, and lose weight, if appropriate. Your physician may also recommend compression stockings or medicated leg wraps.
Use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers for the skin and moisturize with creams or ointments, such as petrolatum. Avoid using topical antibiotics that contain neomycin or bacitracin, as you may develop a skin allergy that may make your rash worse. Medicated steroid creams or ointments may be prescribed to help reduce skin inflammation or itch. If skin sores (ulcers) develop, these may require special wound care.
When to Seek Immediate Medical Care
Seek immediate medical care if your legs become red and painful or you have symptoms like fever and chills. This could be a sign of an infection of the deeper layers of the skin that is caused by bacteria, which could require treatment with antibiotics.
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Published Online: October 13, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2021.3475
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.