Blood flow through your legs, particularly back to the heart, is the most challenging point in your body. Veins have a series of internal valves that help prevent the backward flow of blood. It’s common for these valves to fail as you get older, leading to venous insufficiency that allows blood to pool in your legs.
This condition can create varicose veins and, for some people, a skin condition called venous stasis dermatitis, a form of eczema that most often affects older people over the age of 50, who have venous insufficiency.
MD Vein & Skin Specialists are stasis dermatitis experts. Dr. Clement Banda and our team target the vein disease that’s the underlying cause of the condition, and your treatment may be multifaceted. Below are some of the methods used to keep your legs and skin healthy.
Recognizing stasis dermatitis
Before your skin is affected by venous insufficiency, you’ll likely have other symptoms, often starting with intermittent swelling of the lower legs and ankles. Spider and varicose veins may follow, and you could notice hair loss on your lower legs and feet.
Your legs may become itchy as stasis dermatitis takes hold. Skin gets thicker around the lower shins and ankles and you’ll begin to notice discolorations, usually brown, black, or red in color. Sores begin to form in the later stages, crusty and oozing and slow to heal. You may have accompanying leg pain.
Treating stasis dermatitis
Since circulation is the underlying cause of the condition, treating stasis dermatitis is all about improving circulation. Compression stockings are a common first treatment, since they reduce swelling while supporting vein valves to improve blood flow.
Elevating your legs allows easier drainage for blood returning to the heart. Common strategies include sleeping with your feet elevated and taking breaks through the day to spend 15 minutes with your legs raised.
Motion is also key. Remember that the heart does not pump blood through your veins. Your veins rely on the movement of your leg muscles to help move blood upward. When you have a job, for example, that requires long periods of time either sitting or standing, your leg muscles don’t contract and relax efficiently, necessary for the additional pumping action that keeps blood flowing in the veins. Frequent changes of position, such as once each hour, stimulate circulation in your legs.
Dr. Banda may prescribe corticosteroid creams to reduce skin inflammation or oral antihistamines to control itching for the stasis dermatitis. If you develop sores or ulcers on your legs, medicated dressings could be required to promote healing.
Adding moderate activity for 30 minutes a day adds to the leg contractions that assist your veins. Walking and swimming are two activities that encourage leg health without taking a toll on your energy.
Reducing salt in your diet is healthy overall and will help your circulatory health. If you’re carrying extra weight, use the added activity and dietary changes as the focal point of a weight loss plan. Those extra pounds add to the strain on your veins.
Moisturizing the skin of your ankles and legs helps counteract the dry skin that accompanies stasis dermatitis, but choose a moisturizer without fragrances and dyes to minimize skin irritation.
Should your venous insufficiency lead to serious health threats, Dr. Banda suggests more aggressive treatments including surgery. Call the appointment line at 443-267-2428 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Banda. The earlier you start treatment the better your long-term prognosis, so book your visit now.