Are You At Risk for Venous Stasis Dermatitis?

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Itchy Feet

Are you experiencing red, itchy skin on your legs and feet? It could be a sign of venous insufficiency. But don’t worry, we can treat it!

Varicose veins are the most well-known physical signs of venous insufficiency, a condition attributed to poor circulation in the legs and feet. But do you know about venous stasis dermatitis, another common result of venous insufficiency?

Also known as venous eczema, venous stasis dermatitis develops when weakened valves in the veins stop pushing blood back to the heart. Pressure mounts within the vein as the blood continues to pool. Excess fluid seeps into the surrounding tissue, leading to several skin changes. Knowing your risk factors for venous stasis dermatitis and its symptoms can help you seek treatment at the earliest possible stage.

The symptoms of venous stasis dermatitis

When fluid leaks into the tissue, oxygen cannot reach the skin to nourish it. Deprived of oxygenated blood, the skin around the feet and lower legs begins to show signs of damage. In the first stage, orange-brown spots, also known as cayenne pepper shots, develop. These patches form when pressure and swelling cause the capillaries, or small blood vessels, to break open. The hemoglobin released by the capillaries discolors the skin.

As the condition progresses, the skin may take on a reddish hue and become scaly and dry. Other symptoms include a persistent itch and a thickening of the skin.

Who’s at risk of venous stasis dermatitis?

Venous insufficiency may never progress to venous stasis dermatitis. But poor circulation increases the risk of dermatitis. It’s worth knowing your risk factors for venous insufficiency, which include:

  • Older age. As you age, those vein valves tend to lose strength, resulting in poor circulation.

  • Varicose veins. When blood pools in a superficial vein, the veins may twist and bulge, forming a varicose vein. The swelling caused by a varicose vein can also damage the skin tissue.

  • Hypertension. High blood pressure strains the veins, weakening the valves and leading to poor circulation.

  • Chronic conditions. Heart disease and kidney failure can cause venous stasis dermatitis due to fluid buildup.

  • Obesity. If you carry excess pounds, you're adding stress to your veins.

  • Blood clot in the leg. A clot in the leg veins can block blood flow, causing your skin to become red and warm to the touch. Seek treatment immediately, as a blood clot is dangerous.

  • Lifestyle. Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle don’t give their calf muscles a chance to contact and circulate blood. When you move, your calf muscles support the veins in pumping blood. It’s good practice to move as much as possible to stimulate circulation, even if it means flexing your ankles regularly at your desk.

How to treat venous stasis dermatitis

Catching venous stasis dermatitis at the earliest stage can lead to successful treatment. When treatment is delayed, the condition can advance to open ulcers that are more difficult to manage.

Non-surgical methods involve wearing compression stockings and elevating your feet above your head to improve circulation. Avoid salty foods to keep the swelling down.

Your doctor can prescribe an antihistamine cream to help reduce itching and a topical corticosteroid to treat inflamed skin. If an infection is present, you can take an antibiotic.

Minimally invasive surgery is the only method to treat vein disease successfully. These procedures destroy the clogged vein so blood can divert to healthy veins. The skin then has an opportunity to heal, while varicose veins eventually disappear.

An example of treatment is VenaSeal, which involves using a proprietary adhesive to close the vein. Another is ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy. During this procedure, the vein specialist uses ultrasound to inject foam sclerosant into the vein. The sclerosant irritates the affected vein walls, forcing them to collapse. Blood reroutes to nearby veins.

To keep your veins and skin healthy, manage your weight by exercising. Exercise also boosts circulation. Eating foods high in vitamin C and the antioxidant rutin improves the flexibility of your blood vessels. If your skin tends to become irritated, speak to your doctor about using a fragrance-free moisturizer to soothe it.

We’re the vein treatment specialists

At Center for Vein Restoration, we offer a full spectrum of treatment options for venous insufficiency. Our primary goal is to help you have healthy veins. Our physicians can tailor a treatment plan that includes conservative and surgical methods to fit your needs and lifestyle. Contact us today for a consultation, or call 240-965-3915.

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