Generically speaking, eczema is the catch-all term for a number of skin conditions that commonly causes the skin to become inflamed or irritated. Venous eczema, also known as stasis dermatitis, is one type of eczema that usually afflicts older people.
This common eczema occurs when a person’s circulation becomes sluggish.
Starting in the lower legs, it is caused by poor blood flow causes fluids to build up, and the legs become swollen.
After some time, the fluid buildup affects the skin and soon develops a rash that is itchy, and produces painful sores over a thinning and discolored skin. The treatment is usually a two-pronged approach – treating the dermatitis and the circulation problem as well.
Stasis dermatitis sometimes begins so slowly it is hardly noticed by the patient at all. Sometimes, it can be so rapid it seems to have developed into a full-blown case overnight.
The first visible signs would be the swelling of one or both legs. The swollen part includes the foot and extends to just beneath the knee.
The other symptoms include leg pains, thinning and inflamed skin, severe itching, and the growth of open sores that can also be painful.
Soon, there are patches of skin that become dry and scaly, formation of skin crusting that darkens and thickens with repeated scratching and rubbing. Violet-colored discolorations soon appear on the top of the feet and in the lower legs.
Because it is mainly triggered by poor circulation, stasis dermatitis usually develops in people who are middle-aged or older. In the U.S. there are about 15 to 20 million people over 50 years old who have stasis dermatitis.
As can be expected, the disease rarely happens to people below 40 years old. However, there are slightly more females than males who suffer the condition.
Advancing age is the primary cause of poor circulation. In turn, poor circulation leads to the development of stasis dermatitis or venous eczema.
Sometimes, a deep vein thrombosis, surgery, or an injury that damages the lower leg veins can trigger stasis dermatitis.
There is a long list of risk factors that can trigger the illness aside from the advancing age. They include varicose veins, blood clot (including deep vein thrombosis), high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle and obesity.
They would include, too, heart conditions such as congestive heart failure and kidney failure.
Some of the prescribed treatments are first aids to alleviate the discomfort of the illness while the rest are specific treatments.
The first one is elevating the legs above the heart when sleeping and sitting. This is to improve the leg’s circulation and to decrease the swelling.
The specific treatment is the one for treating congestive heart failure. This calls for the taking of low-dose diuretics for the heart and high blood pressure.
Other treatment includes applying low-dose topical steroids (inflammation reduction) and a topical antibiotic (for possible skin infections).
Scratching is prohibited and the patient is directed to apply petroleum jelly to moisturize the legs.
As it stands, venous eczema (stasis dermatitis) is a long-term condition that needs equally long-term care. This care will continue to be done even when the skin had cleared up.