A Guide to Better Understanding Venous Eczema
Venous eczema is not a condition that we hear a lot about. In fact, many of us may not have even been aware that there are different types of eczema. There are over nine types of "common" eczema, but the one we are going to concentrate on in this article is called venous (stasis) eczema. First, let's briefly go over the term "eczema". It encompasses a variety of dermatitis conditions--or recurring inflammatory conditions that affect the skin. It is possible for one person to suffer from several different types of eczema. The skin usually takes on a rashy appearance of reddened, raised skin that is often dry and very itchy.
Venous eczema is condition that largely affects the legs. This condition causes a person's skin to become weak, appear thin, and often become discolored. Red spots or lesions are not uncommon with this form of eczema, and neither are open sores. One might also notice that the skin around their lower legs and ankles has gradually become thicker. Their legs and ankles may swell up and are likely to itch or become painful. General skin irritation and a rash-like appearance are also symptoms of stasis eczema.
So, what makes this type of eczema so different? Well, the cause behind venous eczema is quite unique. This type of dermatitis develops when one's blood circulation begins to suffer. For instance, an elderly person may develop this type of eczema because the veins of their legs fail to return the blood back to the rest of the body, causing a pooling of blood in areas of the ankles and legs. As you can probably guess, the reason why the legs are so largely affected is due to gravity's natural pull. The blood can easily be driven downward, but the veins have to put in extra effort to transfer the blood back up (against gravity) to the heart. Although elderly persons are not the only ones at risk of developing this type of eczema, they do account for the largest number affected, especially elderly women.
Just because one leg has been affected, does not necessarily mean that the other will be. Venous eczema often accompanies a condition called varicose veins. Varicose veins are veins that have become twisted, swollen, or otherwise damaged to the point that they no longer function as efficiently as they should. If one leg has a worse case of varicose veins than the other, this same leg may also suffer from worse eczema symptoms than the other leg.
The types of treatment for this type of eczema are fairly limited. While the symptoms of eczema may be soothed with topical ointments and moisturizers, the only way to prevent the outbreaks altogether is to treat the underlying circulation problem. Compression stockings, which are support hose that aid in forcing excess fluids back up the legs, can cause a noticeable improvement in one's circulation. Surgical procedures may also be performed to treat the varicose veins in the legs. Surgery of any type should be taken quite seriously, and is not the best form of treatment for everyone.
To treat the itchiness and rash-like outbreaks common with venous eczema, a paraffin emollient cream can be applied regularly to the affected areas. There are similar paraffin-based emollients meant for bath use, in which a few capfuls of the liquid is added to the bath water. This is a great way to keep the skin from drying out while bathing. One should take care to avoid overly-perfumed products such as lotions and body sprays, as these tend to be harsh on sensitive skin. Moisturizers designed for sensitive skin (such as baby lotion) are less likely to produce a reaction yet still provide essential moisture to the skin.
If you are suffering from a severe case of eczema, it is best to speak to your doctor about the best course of treatment for your situation. In some cases, a steroid-based ointment may be prescribed to help soothe severe symptoms.