Venous Stasis Dermatitis

Venous Stasis Dermatitis is a change in the color or texture of the skin and most commonly affects the lower extremities as a result of impaired venous blood flow. It’s a chronic condition that requires long-term care and management to prevent the cutaneous sequela of Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI). Varicose veins accompanied by lower extremity edema are clinical signs of CVI and indicate you are at risk of developing stasis dermatitis.

What Causes Venous Stasis?

Impaired function of one-way valves results in the reflux of blood back towards the feet, causing blood to pool in your veins, increasing vessel pressure. Over time venous hypertension damages the inside lining of vein walls, making the vessel wall more permeable. The increased permeability allows for fluids and small molecules to flow in and out of the vessel, ultimately compromising lymphatic function. The lymphatic system is responsible for removing fluid from tissue.

When fluid and blood cells leak out of the veins and into tissue, skin breaks down, causing Venous Stasis Ulceration. Varicose veins, lower extremity swelling along with skin color changes are clinical markers for impending ulceration. Venous ulcers are difficult to treat because of poor venous circulation and often become infected. Preventing skin break down is key to successful CVI treatment!

If you are experiencing the following signs and symptoms, reach out to your Doctor!

CVI Symptoms:

  • Ugly bulging, bluish veins underneath the surface of your skin
  • Skin color changes to your legs
  • Your legs feel “heavy”
  • Leg swelling
  • Itchy Legs

Clinical Exam

Your Doctor will assess your skin’s appearance for signs of Venous Insufficiency, such as lower extremity swelling and skin color changes. Ultrasonography is a common test performed to examine blood flow in your lower extremities, providing a map of your veins. It’s the most widely used diagnostic exam to evaluate the anatomy of the venous system. Your Physician may perform other tests to assess your general health. There are other conditions that can cause swelling in the legs and feet, such as Congestive Heart Failure, Chronic Kidney Disease, and Cirrhosis (chronic liver damage).

Care and Management

Whether only treating varicose veins or attending to varicosities and other symptoms, compression stockings are the cornerstone of venous insufficiency treatment. If your Physician has recommended that you wear compression stockings, wear them! Stockings exert a pressure gradient that assists with forwarding movement of blood flow, improving lymphatic drainage.

When you sit or stand for long periods of time, it’s harder for your veins to push blood back up towards your heart. Try to avoid long periods of standing in one place or sitting at your desk. If your job requires you to remain in one position for an extended length of time, exercise your legs while sitting down at your desk! Elevate your feet on a footrest to help reduce swelling! Take a 15-minute walk on your lunch break! Find a safe activity that you are comfortable with and is appropriate for your work setting to get your legs moving.

If your skin is itchy and dry, talk with your Doctor before applying a topical moisturizer. Over-the-counter creams and lotions may worsen your skin condition.

What to Watch for!

Venous Stasis Ulceration is a major concern when skin changes occur with other signs of venous insufficiency. Bacterial skin infections are common and unfortunately, some infections can spread to the bone or blood. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, reach out to your Doctor immediately!

Signs of Infection:

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Redness over the affected area
  • Open sore with foul-smelling drainage, or pus

Take Charge of Your Health!

Healthcare is a team effort and you are a part of the team! Take charge of your health and assess your well-being by taking a Vein Quiz! The information provided will help guide dialogue with your Physician at your next appointment. Collaboration and communication help teams make decisions that work towards a common goal: your health and wellbeing!