Stasis Dermatitis

Updated on: August 18, 2014

There are some individuals who develop a brownish dark discoloration around the ankles. This rash may be seen in either one or both legs. The discoloration is not painful but itchy and the skin appears dry and hard. This is what is known as stasis dermatitis. The discoloration is almost always circumferential and found on the ankles and may progress to the top of the feet. "Stasis" means slow moving blood and "dermatitis" signifies dry itchy skin. Another additional finding in individuals with stasis dermatitis is swelling of the legs.

Stasis dermatitis occurs because the fluid from the blood leaks out into the surrounding skin and tissues. The dark brown color is from the blood pigment (hemosdiern) which reacts with the skin and causes the discoloration.

When the skin is scratched it can easily break down and often seepage of fluid can occur. As the condition progresses, the skin can become hard. When skin breakdown occurs the resulting ulcer is almost impossible to heal.

Stasis dermatitis generally develops gradually. The classic features of the condition include:

- Swelling in one or both lower legs

- Leg aches or heaviness

- Initial thin and darkened skin

- Itching which is a common feature

- Ulcers that can be painful and heal very slowly

- Scaly skin

- Seepage of fluid

- Skin thickening and darkening with time

Stasis dermatitis is caused by any condition that increases venous pressure in the legs. These conditions include:

- heart failure

- obesity

- varicose veins

- diabetes

- blood clots in the deep veins

- post phlebitic syndrome

To control or prevent the development of stasis dermatitis, one should:

- walk and exercise daily

- avoid standing or sitting for long periods

- elevate the legs when resting

- wear compression stockings

- to prevent skin dryness, apply any moisturizing lotion

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