Unlike most eczema’s Stasis Eczema is rarely found in children. It occurs on the lower legs of older adults and is the result of a venous return problem. Also known as venous eczema or gravitational eczema, stasis eczema presents as dry, red, scaly patches on the legs that are itchy and irritated.
Who is most at risk
As a person gets older the veins in their legs often become less efficient resulting in sluggish return of blood to the heart. This causes excess fluid to pool in the lower limbs causing oedema and a rash.
People with varicose veins, blood clots in the leg (DVT) or heart failure are most at risk of developing stasis eczema. It is most common in people over the age of 50 and occurs in both men and women.
What it looks like
Typically a rash will develop on the lower leg, usually the inner aspect and will appear as discreet patches or may cover the whole area. Localised swelling becomes worse after prolonged standing and during hot weather.
The rash itself is red and scaly. The surrounding skin becomes dry and the whole area will be itchy. The rash may ooze, weep and crust if scratched or picked at and excessive scratching will cause the skin to thicken and break.
One of the main risks of stasis eczema is the development of a stasis ulcer if the area becomes damaged or traumatised. In some instances the eczema spreads to affect other areas of the body.
A secondary infection may also develop if the skin becomes broken and cellulitis is not uncommon due to the venous problems. Any infection will be painful with increased heat and redness in the localised area. A doctor will need to treat the stasis eczema infection.
What to do
The eczema rash can be treated similarly to any other eczema rash. The skin needs to be kept well moisturised and a cream to control the redness and itch needs to be used. Traditionally doctors have prescribed steroid creams but some natural over the counter creams have also proved effective and are becoming increasingly popular.
The condition involves more than just treating the eczema rash. The swelling in the legs needs also to be kept at a minimum. This can be done by:
- elevating the legs as much as possible,
- sleeping with a pillow under the feet,
- taking regular walks,
- avoiding standing for long periods
- wearing compression stockings once the swelling has subsided.
If an infection develops or there is a break in the skin due to trauma a doctor needs to be contacted immediately so the complication can be treated promptly. It is much easier to avoid an ulcer than it is to treat one so all care must be taken to protect the leg from trauma.
Once the eczema has been successfully treated a doctor needs to be consulted in order to enable the venous problems to be treated. This is the only way to ensure the stasis eczema will not reappear.