What is stasis dermatitis?
Stasis dermatitis is a condition that develops when blood pools in your lower legs because of poor blood flow.
What increases my risk for stasis dermatitis?
Stasis dermatitis is more common in women and in people aged 50 years or older. Your risk is higher if someone in your family has the condition. The following problems may decrease blood flow and increase your risk for stasis dermatitis:
- Heart problems, such as congestive heart failure
- Limited movement
What are the signs and symptoms of stasis dermatitis?
Signs and symptoms may develop over time. You may first notice itching and redness on your inner ankles. You also may have any of the following:
- Your ankles and lower legs may swell.
- Your skin may turn bluish or develop brownish spots.
- Your leg veins may get hard and swollen.
- Your skin may feel rough, bumpy, thick, and scaly.
How is stasis dermatitis diagnosed?
Your caregiver will ask about your medical history and examine you. He may know you have stasis dermatitis by looking at your legs. Tell him about your signs and symptoms and how long you have had them. He may ask if anyone in your family has had stasis dermatitis. You may need tests to look for medical conditions that could be causing your stasis dermatitis. Ask your caregiver about these and other tests:
- Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
- Ultrasound: This test checks the blood flow in your veins. Caregivers look for clots in the veins near the area of your pain and redness.
- MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your legs. An MRI may show if you have blood or fluid collecting in your lower legs. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell caregivers if you are allergic to dye, iodine, or seafood. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury.
- CT scan: This is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your legs. Caregivers check for problems with your blood vessels. You may be given dye to help your caregivers see the images better. Tell the caregiver if you are allergic to dye, iodine, or seafood.
- Skin tissue biopsy: Caregivers may collect a sample of your skin. They will send the tissue to the lab for tests. Ask your caregiver for more information about skin tissue biopsy.
How is stasis dermatitis treated?
The goal of treatment is to decrease your signs and symptoms. You may need other treatments, depending on what condition is causing your stasis dermatitis. You may need any of the following medicines:
- Anti-itching medicine: This helps decrease itching. It may be given as an IV, shot, pill, or cream.
- Steroids: These help decrease redness, pain, and swelling. They are usually given as a cream you put on your skin.
- NSAIDs: NSAID medicine decreases pain and swelling. This medicine is available without a doctor's order. Ask your caregiver which medicine is right for you and how much to take. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
How can I manage my stasis dermatitis?
- Apply unscented lotions or creams: These will help keep your skin moist and decrease itching.
- Elevate your legs: Raise your legs above the level of your heart as much as possible. Prop your legs on pillows while you are lying down. Try to elevate your legs several times a day for 30 minutes each time. You may want to sleep with your legs propped on a pillow.
- Wear pressure stockings: These tight elastic stockings help increase your circulation. This prevents blood from collecting in your legs.
- Do not scratch: Scratching can break open your skin. This can lead to sores or an infection.
- Maintain a healthy weight: This will help improve your circulation. Talk to your caregiver if you need to lose weight.
- Exercise regularly: Exercise makes the heart stronger and can help your blood flow better. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your caregiver about the best exercise program for you.
What are the risks of stasis dermatitis?
- Steroid creams can irritate your skin. Pressure stockings may limit your movement. Even with treatment, your skin may look bumpy or dark. Your signs and symptoms may not go away or may return. You may get a blood clot in your leg. A blood clot can cause pain and swelling. It can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. This problem can be life-threatening.
- Without treatment, you can get sores on your legs. The sores may take a long time to heal and may cause scars. Sores and swelling may make it hard for you to do your normal activities. Pain, limited movement, and how the sores look may make you feel anxious or sad. Sores can become infected. Infection can enter your blood, which could be life-threatening.
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have a fever.
- Your pain is not getting better, even with treatment.
- You have new or worse open sores.
- Your sores are draining pus.
- You have questions about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded and have shortness of breath.
- You have chest pain. You may have more pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.