Additional Information
Encyclopedia Home
Diseases A-Z


Dermatitis, stasis on the leg

More Features

Printer-friendly version

Stasis dermatitis and ulcers


Stasis dermatitis is a change in the skin that occurs when blood collects (pools) in the veins of the lower leg.

Alternative Names

Venous stasis ulcers; Ulcers - venous; Venous ulcer


Venous insufficiency is a long-term (chronic) condition in which the veins have problems sending blood from the legs back to the heart.

Some people with venous insufficiency develop stasis dermatitis. Blood pools in the veins of the lower leg. Fluid and blood cells leak out of the veins into the skin and other tissues. This may lead to itching and inflammation, which cause more skin changes.


You may have symptoms of venous insufficiency including:

  • Dull aching or heaviness in the leg
  • Pain that gets worse when you stand
  • Swelling in the leg

At first, the skin of the ankles and lower legs may look thin or tissue-like. You may slowly get brown stains on the skin.

The skin may become irritated or crack if you scratch it. It may also become red or swollen, crusted, or weepy.

Over time, some skin changes become permanent:

  • Thickening and hardening of the skin on the legs and ankles (lipodermatosclerosis)
  • A bumpy or cobblestone appearance of the skin
  • Dark brown color

Skin sores (ulcers) may develop (called a venous ulcer or stasis ulcer). These most often form on the inside of the ankle.

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

Stasis dermatitis can be related to heart problems, so you may need tests to check your heart function.


You may take the following steps to manage the venous insufficiency that causes stasis dermatitis:

  • Use elastic or compression stockings to reduce swelling
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Keep your leg raised when you sit
  • Try varicose vein stripping or other surgical procedures

Some skin care treatments can make the problem worse. Talk with your health care provider before using any lotions, creams, or antibiotic ointments.

Things to avoid:

  • Topical antibiotics, such as neomycin
  • Drying lotions, such as calamine
  • Lanolin
  • Benzocaine and other products meant to numb the skin

Treatments your health care provider may suggest include:

  • Wet dressings (use only when instructed)
  • Topical steroid creams or ointments
  • Oral antibiotics

Outlook (Prognosis)

Stasis dermatitis is often a long-term (chronic) condition.

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

Call your health care provider if you develop leg swelling or symptoms of stasis dermatitis.

Watch for signs of infection such as:

  • Drainage that looks like pus
  • Open skin sores (ulcers)
  • Pain
  • Redness


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


Reider N, Fritsch PO. Other eczematous eruptions. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 13.

Review Date: 11/3/2014
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, Dermatologist in Private Practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (

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.