Home Health & Wellness Unmasking Venous Stasis Dermatitis: Understanding the Underlying Causes and Symptoms

Unmasking Venous Stasis Dermatitis: Understanding the Underlying Causes and Symptoms

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Venous stasis dermatitis (VSD) is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, yet it remains relatively misunderstood. In this article, we will delve into the intricate details of VSD. At the end of this article, you will understand the underlying causes, symptoms, and complications.

What is venous stasis dermatitis?

Venous stasis dermatitis (VSD) is a skin disorder primarily linked to poor leg circulation. It occurs when the veins in the lower extremities fail to return blood to the heart. This condition leads to a cascade of skin-related problems. Venous insufficiency is a key factor in the development of VSD.

Understanding venous insufficiency

Venous insufficiency develops when the valves within the veins of the legs become weakened, leading to improper blood flow. Normally, these valves ensure that blood flows upward, against gravity, toward the heart. However, when the valves malfunction, blood can flow backward and pool in the veins of the legs. This blood pooling increases pressure in the veins, causing them to expand and become engorged. As a result of this impaired circulation, several significant changes occur within the skin and surrounding tissues. These changes give rise to VSD.

When managing VSD and its underlying cause, venous insufficiency, the expertise of vein specialists is invaluable. A vein specialist in Orlando can diagnose and treat venous conditions, including VSD.

Who’s at risk?

VSD can affect people of all ages, but certain factors increase the risk of developing this condition. Here’s a more detailed look at who is more susceptible to VSD:

  • Age. Age plays a significant role in the development of VSD. The risk increases as people get older. This is because the veins in the legs naturally weaken over time, making it more challenging to pump blood back to the heart. Older people often experience reduced muscle mass and decreased mobility. These conditions contribute to poor circulation and increase the likelihood of VSD.
  • Genetics. Genetics can also substantially influence a person’s predisposition to VSD. If you have a family history of venous disorders, you may be at a higher risk for VSD. Specific genetic factors can affect the structure and function of your veins, making them more prone to issues that lead to VSD.
  • Gender. Women are more likely to develop VSD than men. Hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy and menopause, can affect vein health. Additionally, hormonal contraceptives can contribute to VSD risk in women.
  • Obesity. Excess body weight puts additional pressure on the veins in the lower extremities. Obesity can lead to poor circulation and an increased risk of developing VSD. Weight management is essential for reducing this risk factor.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle. A lack of physical exercise and prolonged periods of standing can hinder blood flow in the legs. Regular exercise helps pump blood efficiently through the veins and reduces the risk of VSD. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to venous insufficiency, a precursor to VSD.
  • Medical Conditions. Some medical conditions might raise the risk of VSD. These include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and autoimmune disorders. These conditions can affect the health of your blood vessels and contribute to venous insufficiency.
  • Occupation. Certain occupations requiring prolonged standing or sitting periods can elevate the risk of VSD. Professions like chef or teaching often involve long hours on one’s feet or sitting in a single position, which can strain the veins.

The process of venous stasis dermatitis

In this section, we will unravel the step-by-step process that occurs within the body. This process leads to the onset of VSD.

  • Increased pressure. Venous insufficiency leads to elevated pressure in the leg veins. This pressure can cause the capillaries to leak fluid into the surrounding tissues, leading to oedema.
  • Inflammatory response. The fluid leakage triggers an inflammatory response in the skin and underlying tissues. This inflammation can cause the following symptoms in the affected area such as redness, warmth, or tenderness.
  • Skin changes. As VSD progresses, the skin undergoes a series of changes. Initially, the skin may appear reddish or brownish, often accompanied by itching. Over time, the skin can become thickened, discoloured, or fragile.  These changes are often described as “stasis dermatitis“.
  • Ulcer formation. In severe cases of VSD, persistent pressure and poor circulation can lead to venous ulcers. These are open sores that typically appear around the ankles. Venous ulcers are painful and slow to heal.


VSD is uncomfortable and can lead to serious complications if left untreated. These complications may include:

  • Skin infection
  • Hardening of the skin and underlying tissue
  • Venous ulcers

Impact on quality of life

Beyond the physical symptoms, VSD can have a negative impact on the quality of life. Chronic pain, discomfort, and visible changes to the skin can cause emotional distress and affect self-esteem.


Venous stasis dermatitis is a multifaceted condition that affects millions. By unraveling its causes and symptoms, we empower people to take charge of their health and well-being. With the right knowledge, people living with VSD can lead fulfilling lives despite their challenges.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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