This question often comes up on forums and websites covering the topic of varicose vein treatment. Stasis dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin on the lower extremities. It is most common around the ankles and occurs as a result of poor circulation in the leg veins, which we will cover in more detail below.
The primary symptoms include hyperpigmentation (discoloration of the skin, i.e. dark patches on the skin), a scaling of the skin, and itching, which can sometimes be quite fierce. If left untreated, stasis dermatitis can easily lead to leg ulcers, which are open wounds and can be a very serious condition because they can easily get infected. Stasis dermatitis is also known as venous eczema and gravitational dermatitis in varicose vein treatment circles. This is because gravity makes it more difficult to return blood in the veins back to the heart.
Varicose vein treatment can, and often does, make a dramatic improvement in stasis dermatitis. In some cases, the symptoms of stasis dermatitis do indeed completely disappear, or at least mostly disappear. However, the word “cure” is a very strong word and doctors are sometimes loathe to use the word. This is because it implies that the condition is one hundred percent totally gone. Therefore, it is doubtful that most vein doctors would actually use the word “cure” to describe the effect that varicose vein treatment may have on stasis dermatitis.
The word “cure” also implies that the condition will not come back. Once a person develops stasis dermatitis, there is always a chance it may come back due to the underlying conditions that caused it in the first place. This is unfortunately true even in cases where varicose vein treatment has made all the noticeable symptoms disappear. This is why doctors often use terms like “full remission” to indicate there are no longer any signs of a disease but that there is still a chance it could come back, due to underlying causes.
Let’s explore why clinical varicose vein treatment like sclerotherapy and EVLT may dramatically improve stasis dermatitis but not completely one hundred percent cure the condition.
At the root of both varicose veins and stasis dermatitis is chronic venous insufficiency, also known as CVI. This is a condition where the veins struggle to return the blood back to the heart because the vein valves are damaged and or the vein walls are damaged. In most cases, both the vein valves and the vein walls are damaged or damage in one leads to damage in the other. When either are damaged, this allows the blood to stagnate or “pool” causing a condition known as stasis. When this occurs, you will see your legs noticeably swell.
As the blood and fluid accumulates, it puts pressure on the skin as well as the veins. This causes the skin fibers to break down and the skin cells to die (necrosis). Stasis dermatitis is more common after age fifty, and much more common in the elderly, because skin naturally becomes thinner and weaker as we age. Therefore, if there is any pooling of blood that causes swelling in the legs at this stage of life, it is more likely to cause a deterioration in the skin.
When a patient visits a top varicose vein treatment clinic like Metro Vein Center, the first procedure they usually perform is a duplex ultrasound. This uses sound waves to explore the inside of a patient’s veins to determine if the vein walls and or vein valves have been damaged, and if so, how extensive that damage may be. It also determines if there is any signs of venous reflux, the backward flow of blood in the veins which causes pooling of blood.
Once the precise location of the damage, if any, has been determined, the vein doctor will recommend the best course of varicose vein treatment. In most cases, this involves ablating (destroying) the portions of a vein or veins that is/are damaged and causing the venous reflux and blood pooling. This is usually done by either injecting the problem areas of a vein with a chemical or zapping it with laser energy. Both have essentially the same effect: they cause the vein to collapse and be reabsorbed. This seals off this portion of the vein so it no longer contributes to the pooling of blood.
These types of varicose vein treatment are almost always successful with few, if any, side effects or long recovery times. If the varicose vein treatment fixes all, or most, of the venous reflux, the stasis dermatitis will likely improve dramatically and the symptoms may even go away completely. However, in some cases, more than one treatment session is required to get to this level of improvement if the varicose vein disease and stasis dermatitis are advanced.
If you have any signs of stasis dermatitis or varicose veins, or these conditions run in your family, it would behoove you to visit to a varicose vein treatment center to have a duplex ultrasound. You can get a free evaluation at Metro Vein Centers just by calling and making an appointment.