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Dermatitis, stasis on the leg
Dermatitis, stasis on the leg


Stasis dermatitis is a skin condition due to the buildup of fluid (swelling) under the skin.

Alternative Names:

Venous stasis ulcers; Ulcers - venous

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The extra fluid that builds up in the body makes it hard for the blood to feed cells and get rid of waste products. The tissue becomes poorly nourished and fragile, resulting in stasis dermatitis. The disorder is common on the ankles because there is less supportive tissue in this area.

Poor circulation in the veins (venous insufficiency) can cause stasis dermatitis and craters (ulcers) in the skin. Varicose veins , congestive heart failure , and other conditions can cause the arms and legs to swell, especially the feet and ankles.

  • Darkening of skin at the ankles or legs
  • Itching
  • Leg pains
  • Open sores, ulcers
  • Skin appears thin, tissue-like
  • Skin irritation of the legs
  • Skin lesion : macule or patch
  • Skin spots, red
  • Swelling of legs , ankles, or other areas
  • Thickening of skin at the ankles or legs

Signs and tests:

The diagnosis is primarily based on the appearance of the skin. Your doctor may order tests to examine the blood flow in your legs.


The condition that is causing the problem and swelling must be controlled. Treatments may include:

  • Surgery to correct varicose veins
  • Medications to control heart failure
  • Diuretics to remove excess fluid

Circulation in the area may improve as swelling goes down. Raising the legs above the level of the heart can help reduce the swelling. Gradually increasing gentle activity, such as walking, can improve circulation.

Elastic stockings may be recommended to improve blood flow from the legs, which will reduce swelling.

Treatments for the skin may include wet dressings and topical antibiotics to control infection in open ulcers. Keep the skin area clean.

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

Stasis dermatitis is often a long-term (chronic ) condition. You may minimize symptoms by controlling the condition and swelling.

  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Chronic leg ulcers
  • Infection of bone
  • Permanent scar

Calling your health care provider:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop leg swelling or symptoms of stasis dermatitis. Watch for signs of infection:

  • Drainage that looks like pus
  • Pain
  • Redness


To prevent this condition, control the causes of peripheral edema .

Review Date: 10/11/2008
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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